Zella is behind the curve for speaking.  Tirza has been using complete sentences for months.

Besides Judah, Zella is the only sincerely incoherent one.  It’s a funny similarity between her and Ada who slurred everything until a couple of weeks ago even though Tirza (11 months younger than Ada) is clear and articulate.  We even made appointments with speech therapists for Ada when her younger sister lapped her.  The professionals said that no matter what Tirza’s doing, Ada was on-track for her age.

Now that Ada has mostly joined Lana and Tirza in the toddler eloquence club, they all take turns trying to interpret Zella for our sakes.  “What did Zella just say?” we ask them.  Sometimes we offer rewards:  “I got an entire candy bar for the girl who can decipher, ‘myloppa grash flup flup shosha-bik’.”  Remember the character Mumbles from Dick Tracy (Dustin Hoffman portrayed him well in the 1990 film)?  That’s Zella.

Her facial expressions remain vivid, especially when her eyebrows say, “Don’t you understand me?”  Maybe she thinks it’s all a game:  Everyone else yammers on with seemingly arbitrary syllables and then Mommy gives them what they want.  She doesn’t need to study the phenomenon further.

Tonight, the interpreter role took a funny turn during our ritual post-bedtime vigil (Mommy or Daddy has to guard their bedroom door, ready to thunder when someone starts singing, hitting or wandering the room).  We must depend on Tirza and the other girls to translate from Zella-ese more than we think.  Zella was sitting, wide awake but well-behaved, outraged that Ada was laying transverse across her own bed, legs dangling over the edge.  I have picked up enough street-Zella to get it:  “Daddy, look!  Ada … bed!” is her abridgment of the tattle, “Ada’s off her bed”.

Piercing the serenity and my self-satisfied interpretation comes Tirza’s echo, clear and distinct:  “Daddy, look!  Ada … bed!”  Tirza is laying on her back on the top bunk.  She cannot see Ada.  She is not tattling.  She is just repeating Zella for anyone who needs a semantic boost.  This becomes a game:  Zella sentence, Tirza translation.  After a few rounds, I restored the silence of bedtime.  No one’s in trouble.  I’m impressed, not angry.

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