Friday, April 04, 2014


Ben’s mother sent me an email. The email came from Ontario. “Ben can now say five words,” she announced. “He can say Eyra—the name of his girlfriend at the babysitter’s, mama, dada, hi and amen.” Just to prove it she sent along a little video. Mama said: “Aaaaamen!” Ben said: “”Aaaaamen!”SThere it was, plain for all to hear. The proof was in the video. Now I was as proud as any respectable grqandperson could be. But I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. So I did what any self-respecting soul might do. I bought a ticket, jumped on a plane, and headed for Ontario to come to the aid of that baby who needed somebody to teach him how to say: “Granny.” Even as I gave the travel agent number on my MasterCard I knew the job might not be easy. It is true that I am a granny, which means I am also a mother. And it is also true that my three children grew up to be perfectly competent talkers. But I am too old to remember just how they learned certain words. Fortunately, I am old enough to remember how my little brother learned to talk, way back when I was six or seven years old. At the time I figured he was beyond hope. Little brother grew up to be a capable talker, despite some rough beginnings. He made more than a few mistakes in his time. Mom always took his side when I pointed out how dumb he was. I specifically recall one day when he was farming on the kitchen floor, loading grain into a transport vehicle, naming that vehicle over and over again. Perhaps he would have attracted less attention if he had been saying, “Luck, luck, luck; or muck muck muck.” “The f sound,” Mother explained, “is easier for babies than the tr sound.” Like the tr sound, the gr sound is not an easy learn for a pint-size baby-talker. And I only had three days in which to teach the “gr” word to Ben. So wepractised hard right from the beginning, teaching the way any good teacher would teach. I started with the five words he already knew, asking him to repeat each after me. Granny said: “Mama!” Ben said: “Mama!” Granny said: “Dada!” Ben said: “Dada!” Granny said: “Hi!” Ben said: “Hi!” Granny said: “Eyra!” Ben said: “Eyra!” Granny said: “Aaaaaamen!” Ben said: “Aaaaamen!” I am pleased to report that we made tremendous progress in only one long weekend. By the time I left for Alberta, Ben could say “Granny.” It was as plain as day to anybody with a little imagination. Sometimes it sounded like mama, and sometimes like Eyra. Sometimes it sounded like Dada, and every so often, it sounded just a bit like Aaaaaamen!”

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