First Words

June 11, 2012

According to my baby book, which as I’ve mentioned before, is particularly sparse because I was a lowly second-born, my first word was, “Hi there!”  Considering my cantankerous and reclusive nature, I think this is hilarious. Why were my first utterances so sociable, I wonder?  Shouldn’t I have come out with something like, “Bugger off,” or “Shut your pie-hole, you idiot weasel?”

Although I must say, not much later came the phrase, “Home now?” Which was not so much a question as a demand, and my mother dreaded taking me anywhere, because as soon as our car left the garage, the litany of “home now’s?” began.

Miss D.’s first words were “Hi!” and “Dada,” which comes as no surprise because she loves nothing more than greeting people and chilling with her father, who she constantly reminds me is the “fun” parent.

I am embarrassed to say that I had to consult Miss M.’s (sparse) baby book to refresh my memory about her first utterances. What can I say? My mind is weak and I’m a slack mum and I’m completely guilty of baby book failure. According to the few items I managed to list, Miss M’s first word was “kitty.”  I’m sad that I’d forgotten this, because our feline resident, HarryBoy, was, indeed, M.’s first love, and it was an ardent and often physical affair. Poor HarryBoy, rest his soul. He was a patient dude.

And then there was the matter of my sister. Her first word was, “Baaa.” Now “Baaa” is a perfectly fine first word, even though it really isn’t a word, unless you’re discussing wooly little creatures who gnaw on grass, but that’s not the issue.  The issue was, my sister fell in love with “Baaa,” and decided that it was the only word she would utter for her first two years of life.

Mama fretted about this. Other two-year old children were spurting genius things, like “snack now” and “me no do that” and “Big Bird, he yellow,” and all my sister would respond with was “Baaa.”

This was troublesome. She took my sister to the pediatrician, wringing her hands, worried that my sister had some awful deformity or affliction. The doctor examined my sister thoroughly, patted my mother on the back and prescribed and evening glass of wine (for my mother) and assured her that all was well. My sister would talk in time–her own time.

Mama got pretty good at the language of “Baaa.”  There were times when my sister would toddle over to something, point, and say, “Baaa?” and Mama knew that this was inquiry. Sometimes, there was an angry pout and a stink eye and a staccato “Baaa!” which was obviously an indication of displeasure. A tilt of the head, a  winning smile and a “Baaa?” Seduction.

Hey, if you have an interpreter that talented, why bother with anything else?

The Reign of Baaa ended suddenly on a shopping trip.  My mother married a man with the last name Hagmeyer, which, I am told, translates to “turnip farmer” in German. Glamorous. And hard to spell. Mama ended up having to sound it out it, letter-by-letter, to anyone she gave our name to: doctors, dentists, shopkeepers, the stout lady at the dry-cleaning desk. It’s kind of an ass-pain, having a last name like Hagmeyer.

But one day, in a random florist shop in North Dakota, being a Hagmeyer wasn’t so bad.

“How do you spell that last name?” the checker asked, pen poised.

And as my mother opened her mouth to answer, the Girl who said Baaa answered, with perfect diction, “H-a-g…m-e-y…er.”

Mama was stunned, the checker was charmed, and my sister was delighted with her newfound voice.

And then, of course, she hasn’t shut up since.

ps: if you have any good first word stories for me, I’d love to hear them!

pps: Apologies to fellow bloggy friends if I have been scarce–this week is the week from Hades re: appointments and activities. Hades, I tell you. Hopefully things will settle down a bit by next week and I can drop by soon. I miss you!

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula (Salad in a Jar) June 11, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Having just returned from vacation with a two-year-old, I really enjoyed this post. Always interesting to hear about your childhood years. You don’t even need a baby book because you remember so many details without it. Amazing!


TKW June 12, 2012 at 8:14 am


I remember some of the details, and then mama and daddy fill in the gaps!


Contemporary Troubadour June 11, 2012 at 8:06 pm

My husband’s younger brother did not speak for the first three years of his life. He’s now an astrophysicist, so clearly, it all worked out in the end, but my mother-in-law definitely knows the anxiety your mother had during the Reign of Baaa.


TKW June 12, 2012 at 8:15 am


An astrophysicist? Wow. He must have had too much math going on in his head to speak.


Katybeth June 11, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Funny things about kids..they don’t talk, they talk non stop giving you ever last detail until you want to duct tape their mouths shut, and then they move back to one word answers again. Now when my 16 year old wants to string more than three words together I sit perfectly still. have learned to “hold it” and secretly slide my finger over my phone to turn it off…and there I sit engaged with every word that comes out of his mouth until a text message jars him back to his senses and with he quickly bids me farewell with a LATER!.
Such a cute picture!


TKW June 12, 2012 at 10:25 am


We suffer from the same teenage affliction in our house!


Justine June 11, 2012 at 9:57 pm

The daddy is always the fun parent in my house too. Both my girls’ first words were cat – and it probably has to do with our HarryBoy equivalent, who would let the girls do anything to him (except poke his eyes – he had his limits apparently).

As for the sparse baby book…guilty, guilty, guilty. At least my older one has a memory box (mostly empty). We didn’t even get one for Number 2, and she’s already one.



TKW June 12, 2012 at 10:26 am


Thank goodness for patient cats! I don’t know how poor HarryBoy survived the torment…


Privilege of Parenting June 11, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Those were perfect words for you to begin, but perhaps your sister’s more pressing issues made it so that you were not heard quite the way your kids are, causing you to withdraw from your natural friendly exuberance. Perhaps you will understand that when you say “Hi there,” now we are more than happy to say “Hi there,” back at’cha.

As for your sister, this may be a deeper issue (but maybe not). “Ba” is a word for soul ( in ancient Egyptian culture and certain others as well. Given your sister’s angst after two years of trying to explain the most important thing to grown-ups who could not understand, despite all good intentions, she gave up and joined the humans who, like turnips, typically grow with heads in the earth.


TKW June 12, 2012 at 10:27 am


Only you could like ancient Egyptian culture and turnips together in such a thoughtful way!


TKW June 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

*link* not like–lazy fingers


Naptimewriting June 12, 2012 at 12:18 am

Ah, first words.
Eldest: Dat! (that)
Yongest: Dada!

I’d like to think your “Hi there” was the pure you, before icky people went and took advantage of your good nature with their failings and baggage ad annoying habits. Probably took you a year to figure out people suck. By then, you had full sentences.


TKW June 12, 2012 at 10:29 am


Girl, you are probably right. It takes a while for the cynicism to take root.


Abby June 12, 2012 at 6:53 am

I’m told my first words where the boring “Dada” crap that’s expected, even though “mama” was around all the time ;)

But my first sentence, so to speak, was something along the lines of “Goddamn dog.” We lived with my grandparents for a few months while my parents built their house and they had an old black poodle that would jump on the couch. My grandma–the gem I’ve written about before–used to say that to her whenever she shooed her off. I picked it up. My grandma denied it, but still laughs at the site of this little munchkin saying “Goddamn dog” while teetering around the house.


TKW June 12, 2012 at 10:29 am


Just yet another reason to love you. “Goddamn dog,” made me laugh out loud.


Erica@PLRH June 12, 2012 at 7:18 am

I’m a horrible mother. I never filled in eldest son’s baby book and never bothered to buy one for youngest son.

Family lore has it that my forst word was actually a phrase, “Weave Me Wone!”
A sentiment that’s still appropriate today.


TKW June 12, 2012 at 10:30 am


In that regard, we are completely alike.


Arnebya June 12, 2012 at 7:53 am

My first word was Texaco. It was apparently the only gas station around and we went often to its bathroom and convenience store.

I truly cannot remember my kids’ first words. They were all early talkers, broken sentences of “I hungwee” or “Pick-a up, pease” at 10 months. None of them walked unassisted until 15+ months though. I’ve always figured you get one or the other: early talker or early walker. Not always, but for us…yeah.


TKW June 12, 2012 at 10:31 am


With my history of working at gas stations, I love it that your first word was “Texaco!” Awesome.


Jenna June 12, 2012 at 8:53 am

That story about your sister is AMAZING! I will make sure to relax about the whole talking thing after hearing that. Straight from ‘baa’ to spelling! Wondrous.


TKW June 12, 2012 at 10:32 am


Methinks your girl will come out singing ;)


denise June 12, 2012 at 10:46 am

PS first: me too on the Hades-weeks and scarcity.

Comment second: I can’t remember my or my children’s first words. This bothers me at times because it makes me feel like a sucky failure. But now I know that it’s just that I have a sucky memory. The story about your sister’s first words? Brilliant.


Biz June 12, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Ah, the second child. I babysat for a couple who had a 3 year old and 1 year old. The 3 year old? Had a photo album – they took a picture of her 365 pictures!

The 1 year old? She had maybe 12!

I haven’t stopped by in a while – my baby moved out and I am an empty nester at the age of 44! Can I just say that my husband likes coming out of the bathroom stark naked from his shower now?!


TKW June 13, 2012 at 7:08 am


Laughing at your hubby! Good for Tony! Nice to see you!


Alexandra June 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I remember each of my children’s first words:

My oldest: dada

My middle: pooh bear

My baby: mama

So, all’s good .


TKW June 13, 2012 at 7:09 am


Your memory is better than mine, clearly. Nowadays if I don’t write something down, it’s gone in an instant.


idiosyncratic eye June 12, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Mine was the name of our dog but my brother’s was ‘more’. Followed up by ‘more please’. Come to think of it, his vocabulary hasn’t much changed since. ;)


TKW June 13, 2012 at 7:10 am


I think all Americans in general have that “More” vocabulary!


idiosyncratic eye June 13, 2012 at 7:20 am

And we’re the other side of the ‘pond’ so there can’t be much hope for him! :)


suzicate June 12, 2012 at 5:47 pm

What a great story. Seems like those quiet ones who burst out all of a sudden are the ones we have to worry about!
I was the sixth kid so no baby book for me…and my mom keeps embellishing things. I really was self potty trained at eleven months, but as my mom gets on in years it’s changed to eight and now six months. She showed me something I wrote and I asked her how old I was and she said four…Ha, I didn’t write in full sentences until probably end of first or maybe second grade! I was not the genius child; my mother is just forgetful, but after six kids who can blame her?


Pamela June 12, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I don’t even have a baby book for my second child. Baa!!! That’s why seconds turn out so cool:)


Jane June 12, 2012 at 8:24 pm

My first word was “baby.” But it was me singing to Herman’s Hermits “Baby, Baby, Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat.” My parents, of course, thought I was destined to be a star. I did continue a music career, interestingly enough. I fumbled around, singing in pubs, with a symphony chorale and even had a small singing part in a movie. But, alas, they didn’t have American Idol back in the day. So, now, I just sing to my kids. ;)


TKW June 13, 2012 at 7:11 am


I didn’t know you could sing? How cool is that? You’re just full of hidden talents!


Amber June 13, 2012 at 4:56 am

Andrew’s first word was tylenol. Whaaaa?

Emily’s was hi and dada and mama. You know, typical stuff.


TKW June 13, 2012 at 7:11 am


Tylenol? Now that one got me laughing.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes June 13, 2012 at 6:08 am

First word of the elder and younger : mama.
First sentence they both spoke : ‘going to get a cookie’
They have perfected it since then.


TKW June 13, 2012 at 7:12 am


Seems like a reasonable first sentence to me. :)


Robin June 13, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I loved this story. Baby books? I had good intentions, but alas, no baby books for my two. So I don’t really remember first words, although my daughter could string together three words by the time she was 15 months. When our son was 2 1/2, we took him for a hearing test because he still hadn’t said anything. Like your sister, he just made sounds. Turns out, his hearing was great. One day when he was 3, he just started speaking in sentences. I guess he didn’t have anything he wanted to say before that. For shame, that was a momentous moment, and I should remember what he said, but I don’t – and I didn’t write it down (no baby book).


TKW June 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm


No worries. Just make some random shit up. Your child will know nothing about the incident, so you are scot-free.


Robin June 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Why didn’t I think of that? I should have started coming to you for advice a long time ago!


Not a Perfect Mom June 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I have four kids…2 out of those 4 have a baby book..the first one is 3/4 filled in…the second? maybe a third…
the 3rd and 4th kids? ha! People ask when they started walking or what the first word was when and I have to make something up….


TKW June 14, 2012 at 7:05 am

Not a Perfect Mom,

You have FOUR? Okay, that’s the best excuse ever for unfilled baby books!


Heather June 18, 2012 at 7:28 pm

The boys have baby books, with a few things written in them… I don’t recall Eli’s first words but do remember that he spoke with an English accent for the longest time – go figure! I’m pretty sure Keegan’s first words had something to do with food. He always loved to eat – still does :)


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