When Kallan was much littler, one of her favorite things in the world was to play what she called hummytime. Hummytime was generally a game for the car, where the audience was captive. The game was simple; one person hummed a song and the other person tried to identify the tune.
“Kallie hum first?”
“OK, go ahead. You hum and I will try to guess.”
Kallan would hum a song and I would try to guess what she was singing. We had an extensive collection of music CDs to which we listened endlessly, so Kallan had many many songs in her repertoire. Despite the multitude of possibilities, I was generally able to guess the song Kallan was humming within one or two guesses . . . although sometimes, I would prolong my guessing because my failure to identify her song made Kallan giggle wildly.
“OK, Kallie is done. Good job, Mommy. Now Mommy hum.”
And so then I would hum a song.
“Mommy, too easy! I Don’t Wanna Live Onna Moon.”
Kallan loved this game, but eventually the game had to be saved for the rare occasions when Kallan and I were alone in the car, because otherwise there was this . . .
“I want to play, Mommy.”
“OK, Maj. You want to hum a song?”
“Yes. Listen,” and then Maj would hum a song.
Kallan and I would listen closely, and then Kallan would say, “That’s ABC song, Majee.”
Maj would stop humming to inform her sister, “Nope. That’s not it. Guess again.”
Maj would hum a little more of what was obviously the Alphabet Song, and I would cautiously venture, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star?”
Maj would stop humming, “Why do you guys always guess the Alphabet Song and Twinkle Twinkle?”
Kallan would speak apologetically, “Majee, you always hum the same song. Has to be one of those names. Every time, Majee. Every time.”
Maj would throw herself crabbily back in her carseat, “I was humming We’re Going to the Zoo. I am never humming the ABC song or Twinkle Twinkle. I am never humming those guys. OK, listen. I will hum a brand new different song. LISTEN,” and she would hum some more.
Kallan and I would listen silently for a moment, and then Kallan would speak hopefully, “How about we call your song ABC Twinkle? Good humming job, Majee!”
Majee was not pleased.
A few nights ago.
Maj is practicing a speech she has to give for school. She has been practicing it all week with her friends, but this is the first time she has practiced for Kallan and me. The point of the speech exercise is to tell a scary story using several different characters, each of whom is to have a unique speaking voice.
Maj tells her story well. She has the whole thing memorized. She uses a lot of facial expression, and she is very dramatic. She does an excellent job.
But . . .
Kallan is puzzled, “I thought you were supposed to give your characters different voices.”
Maj glares at her sister, “What? I did!”
“Ummmm . . . all your voices sounded like Maj to me.”
“That’s ridiculous, Kallan. I used different voices.”
I speak cautiously, “There’s no point in arguing, ladies. Maj, why don’t you ask Kallan how she would do the voices?”
Maj rolls her eyes, but she lists the characters one by one and asks how Kallan would make them speak. Kallan does her version of each of the characters: the evil old man on the phone, the nervous babysitter, the sassy ten year old boy, and the scared younger girl. When she is done, Maj stares at her sister, “THAT IS INSANE! HOW DO YOU DO THAT?”
Kallan smiles, “It’s easy. Let me help you.”
The sisters disappear for a few minutes, and then they reappear.
Kallan’s face is worried.
Maj starts her speech again.
About halfway through, she stops her story and glares at me. She stomps her foot in annoyance, “AUGH! THEY ALL SOUND LIKE ME! I DIDN’T NOTICE IT BEFORE, BUT THEY ALL SOUND LIKE ME! THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR BRINGING THIS TO MY ATTENTION THE NIGHT BEFORE I HAVE TO GIVE THIS SPEECH. NOW I AM GOING TO FAIL AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT, MOTHER.”
I protest, “How is this my fault?”
Kallan suggests her sister try again, and so Maj does.
All the voices are Maj’s voice.
Kallan shakes her head, “Maj, your voice just wants to be the only voice. It’s bossy and stubborn, just like you.”
Maj crinkles her papers in angry frustration, “HOW IS THIS HELPFUL? HOW . . . IS . . . THIS . . . HELPFUL?”
I wave my hand for calm, “Listen, Maj. There is no point in getting all worked up about something it’s too late to change. Don’t worry about it. You have the speech memorized, and you tell the story well. So you aren’t good at voices. Who cares?”
“DID YOU JUST SAY THAT I AM NOT GOOD AT VOICES? ARE YOU TRYING TO CRUSH MY SPIRIT, MOTHER? MY SPEECH SPIRIT IS CRUSHED AND FLATTENED. AUGH! I CAN’T STAND IT! I SIMPLY CANNOT STAND IT!”
Kallan mutters, “Too bad your speech spirit is not crushed and flattened and also silenced.”
I giggle, which is a mistake, because then Maj goes completely mental.
ALL CAPS MENTAL!
Kallan speaks beneath the screaming, “Mom, can I paint your fingernails?”
“Yeah, I guess so . . . but this time no polka dots.”
Kallan takes my hands in hers and examines them, “Awww, huneeee. You nah tay guh care, huneeee. You nah tay guh care! You gah oo moisurice, huneee. Loo ah ese ans, huneee! You usban be so sad, hunee. He say why you so ruff, hunee. Leh me fix fo you. Usban is goo man, hunee? Why you nah tay goo care, hunee? I elp you for whoa pwice. Nah fwee bu whoah pwice. You gah chilwen, hunee? How oll? Hunee! I got chilwen same azhge, hunee. Wha names chilwen?”
Maj stares at her sister, “ARE . . . YOU . . . KIDDING . . . ME?”
Kallan giggles, “That’s how the nail lady talks!”
Maj throws her papers in the air and stomps off, “I CAN’T MAKE MY VOICE DO ANYTHING AND MEANWHILE MY SISTER IS AN ASIAN MANICURIST! THIS FAMILY DRIVES ME INSANE!”
I interrupt her, “Your voice can do things. Your voice is awesome at screaming.”
Maj glares at me.
I speak mildly, “So there is that.”
Kallan turns to me, “You wahn pinh nails, hunee? Pinh may you yung. You nees yung.”
Wait . . . what?