Scarlett speaks. A month ago she said her first words. Which actually was the first one is subject of heavy debate among family members. One of the candidates is “boo”, standing for book. Already from an early age on Scarly wanted us to go through picture books with her. She said “boo-boo” meaning “Get a book and read it to me”. Undoubtedly “boo” was very early, but I personally think “Hallo” was even earlier. She lifted her little toy telephone and said “Hallo” (German for “hello”) or sometimes “hello” with an English accent.

Before “hallo” and “boo” she obviously said things like “mama” or “dada” which we read as referring to mama or daddy.  “Hallo” and “boo” however have a different quality as Scarlett used them exclusively in order to refer to one specific object or situation. In contrast “mama” and “dada” were used for a wide range of things and often she said it just to exercise without a specific reference. This interpretation, as you can imagine, is also subject of heavy debate among family members. With a withering look mama tells me that “mama” has always been very specific and clearly linked to her.

Yesterday and today then further proof for her linguistic leap. Scarly started making animal noises. A kind of “wau wau” (German dog sound) or “bow-wow”, and a kind of  “cocka doo doo” (which could be both Italian or English, not German as German roosters do “kikeriki”. By the way, it has always been a mystery to me why German animals speak differently from English ones. Okay there are different varieties of chickens and dogs but don’t they all make more or less the same sounds? What about a German Shepherd bred in England?)

The animal noises have their origin in Scarly’s and nonna’s favourite pastime. Whenever nonna comes to look after her, which is three times a week, she sits down in our armchair, Scarly on her lap, takes out a fairy tale book by Richard Scarry and the two start thumbing through the pages. Scarly points at all the animals, forms her mouth as if she wanted to say something, but then nothing comes out. It is then nonna who has to make the sounds.

However beautiful this activity is, nonna slowly seems to rue the day she started it because Scarlett can at times be very determined. The moment nonna enters the door, Scarlett points at her book and wants her to read. And may god have mercy if nonna dares stop reading too early.