While growing up, my family came to refer to me as “the voice that roared.” They even had hand signals they’d use (still use) when in public to help modulate my volume. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had a complete stranger ask me to speak more softly so as not to disturb their inner peace, all the while I’m blithely thinking I’m conversing at a pleasant decibel. I admit, I have an appallingly, naturally loud voice. Like fiercely, painfully loud. The kind of loud that hurts shakes your inner soul. When I was little, I sounded like Fran Drescher on speed. Fortunately, I’ve grown out of the nasal element, but I still don’t know how my parental units survived those formative years.
I often see people withdraw while in conversation with me. I’d like to believe it’s my voice, and not my bodily aroma which has been questionable of late, that causes this reaction. I don’t take offense. Just the other week I saw an old high school friend who has fostered a voice such as mine (why one would make such an adaptation during their adult years, I cannot comprehend) and I finally understood what it was like to have a conversation with myself. Grating. Uncomfortable. And I did not like it one bit. I’m not loud on purpose. It just, well, carries. It carries really damn well. If only I’d grown up during the Hellenistic period, I would be the shining star of the Greek Theater. Just plop me in the center of Epidaurus and my whisper would be heard by the entire country, nay, all of the Mediterranean region. On the upside, it makes public speaking a breeze.
In this vein, my daughter has been cultivating her own little voice. It is the most fantastically humorous and joy-inducing of developments. She has this sweet baby coo that I interrupt as “I love you” (because obviously my child is so emotionally developed that she is in tune with such a complex human feeling). A squawk that is uttered when mommy and daddy have dropped the ball and forgottten to pull the string on her flying cow mobile, aptly named “Clickity-Clacks.” And a very conversational babble that she exchanges with her array of black and white stuffed animals on her changing table: Mortimor the Sheep, Zach the Zebra, and Gertrude the Cow.
Yesterday, while on the phone with a friend, Addison was lying on her play mat gazing blissfully at the spread of bug stuffed animals dangling above her. As I was speaking, her sweet conversational babble turned into loud, pointed barking/squawking noises. It sounded like a gaggle of geese were being tortured by a hound dog in my living room. So loud, in fact, that my friend asked quizzically, “Is that the baby in the background? Good Lord she’s loud.”
And that’s when it struck me. My daughter has already picked up on her mommy’s most distinctive of traits. Her exceedingly elevated volume. And not only has she noticed it, she is now competing for the prize of being the most obnoxious sound in the room. That squawk/bark was her mocking mimicking her dear mother. And all this time I’d naively thought that since she had grown in my belly, constantly surrounded by the roar hum of my voice, she would be the one person on earth that would find me soothing, peaceful and relaxing to the ear. My family and friends and poor poor James have all just had to adapt and learn the damn hand signals, but my daughter would be different. My voice would be like the seductive, pleasant song of the Sirens to her.
Alas, it looks like the war of the opinionated, vocal, first born women has already commenced. Bring it on, Little Bug.