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First words. What was my own first word? Probably â€śMama,â€ť though now my mother doesnâ€™t remember. She does remember my brotherâ€™s first word, which was â€śarrow.â€ť This is because she was constantly driving around the block with him in his car seat trying to put him to sleep. He would see the arrow on the speedometer and my mother would say â€śarrowâ€ť and so he too repeated â€śarrow.â€ť It was inevitable, he spent most of his time trying to get to sleep in the car.
What will my daughterâ€™s first word be? Adrian and I wonder this often. We speak Spanish and English in our house. Adrian is Mexican Catholic and I am American Jewish and we have Hebrew letters all over the house. There is a Virgin of Guadalupe in our room and the Hebrew alphabet on the fridge. We wonder if little Helen is confused. She has begun to make many noises and just a few weeks ago she was saying â€śmamamamamamama.â€ť At first we thought it was me she was calling. Sheâ€™s eight months old now and itâ€™s a bit early for her first words. But I was ecstatic when I heard â€śMaaaaaa!!!â€ť come out of her mouth. But then,Â she stopped saying it. Now sheâ€™s making noises. We are happy with noises, too.
What we wonder most is what language she will choose. We speak Spanish at home, English at Grandmaâ€™s house and Hebrew on holidays. Also, we hope her first word will be something nice. We live in New York and our language here can be, well, special. We really hope her first word doesnâ€™t fly out of her mouth unannounced during rush hour traffic so we, mostly me, have had to tone it down when in her company.
Every Thursday when Adrian goes to work I pile Helen into the Chevy and we go pick up my mother and head off to my sister-in-lawâ€™s house. My brother works as well so itâ€™s usually a girlâ€™s day except for my twin nephews, Jacob and Nathan, who are just two-and-a-half months older than Helen. We look to them for what to expect with words. They havenâ€™t started speaking yet either, though they make a lot of different sounds as well.
In the Torah there are two sets of famous twins. First, there are Jacob and Esau. They are the most well known because they are famous for being the â€śgoodâ€ť twin and the â€śevilâ€ť twin. But, if I am going to make comparisons Iâ€™d like to compare my nephews more to Tamarâ€™s twins, who the Torah describes as both being righteous. Tamarâ€™s twins also came early, as did my nephews.
Our Thursdays are spent playing and observing and waiting for words. This week Nathan can stand while holding onto something and he makes a low gurgle and smiles. Jacob can stand, too, but he doesnâ€™t like to get down by himself and he loves to look at books. Helen bangs a plastic donut against her head and is content. Itâ€™s a marvel to watch these three cousins interact. Helen and Nathan seem to be the best of friends and Jacob lies in the middle of the play rug and flips the pages in his cloth book. I wonâ€™t be surprised if Jacobâ€™s first word is a whole sentence and he one day blurts out, â€śE equals Mc squared.â€ť Nathan will probably say, â€śLetâ€™s go Mets!â€ť and I still wonder about Helen. Adrian has started to say â€śHolaâ€ť and wave to her. I have started speaking to the twins in Spanish. They look at me like I have three heads but I think they look at me like that anyway.
Iâ€™d like my daughter and my nephews to learn basic Yiddish words as well. Here are a few Iâ€™m highlighting that will serve them well on their journeys through life:
1.Â Feh. Feh is like spitting. Itâ€™s when you disapprove or find something gross. If someone asks if you like politics you can say, â€śFeh.â€ť
2.Â Plotz. To plotz means to explode. If you are shocked by something then you could just plotz!
The most important word and one used most frequently in my household is…
3.Â Nu. Nu means, â€śHello?â€ť â€śWell?â€ť â€śHuh?â€ť When Helen doesnâ€™t want to eat I say, â€śNu? When are you going to finish this?â€ť
Now that Iâ€™ve added another language to the list Iâ€™m worried that Helen will never want to speak. Maybe thatâ€™s why my brother said â€śarrowâ€ť for the longest time. He could never get a word in edgewise with my parents always clucking. But, I think the word my daughter and my nephews will learn quickly enough is a word everyone uses with them all the time. In English, â€śLoveâ€ť or â€śI love you.â€ť In Spanish, â€śAmorâ€ť or â€śTe Amo.â€ť In Hebrew, â€śAhavaâ€ť or â€śani ohevet otcha.â€ť In Yiddish, â€śOy vey.â€ť Just kidding. In Yiddish, â€śIkh libe dikh.â€ť