“Baub-au!” Elle cries gleefully as Craig, the fire master, magically ignites the pile of sticks and driftwood the two had so diligently gathered from the beach that afternoon.
“Baub-au, baub-au!” she utters impatiently, wholly annoyed that we’re not allowing her to climb over the rock divider and trample through the lush planter beds separating her from the enchanting water fountain and floating pastel-colored umbrellas we find in the lobby of Las Vegas’s Palazzo hotel.
“Baub-au,” she whispers in awe, pointing a twig-thin finger at a Yosemite waterfall that, with its massive rush of roiling water turning the air into arches of color, threatens to hold us captive in its presence until well after dinnertime.
In the last weeks, Elle has made a breakthrough in her ability to turn what she sees, feels and hears into something tangible she can share – turning the experiences and emotions of a 14-month-old into words. At least something that resembles words. “Baub-au” is, we’ve discovered, her way of telling us that something is worthy of comment. Campfires, waterfalls and elegantly decorated hotel lobby fountains are but a few of the things that have earned the baub-au designation in the last three weeks, during which we have rambled westward, to the ocean and back, in our first ever multi-week Prohaska family road/camping trip.
The baub-aus began on an extremely windy, cold and mostly unpleasant evening camped out near a beach just south of Ventura. It was our first night on the coast, and it was, at least for the adults, not what we had signed up for. We were hunkered down in our 1964 Shasta camp trailer, what we call our “vintage” Shasta because “old” doesn’t sound as sexy. But the thing is old, older than either of us. It has a hole in the roof and a broken oven. We soon discovered we had to stick a screw in the notches at the bottom of the refrigerator door to keep the thing closed and working.
There is not much for an inquisitive 14-month-old to do while sequestered inside a 14-foot “vintage” Shasta camp trailer with two adults and a shedding dog while a cheek-reddening wind blows beach sand through the cracks in the windows. She was already bored with crayons, blocks, books, and those neon light-up wands. So I broke out the bubbles, a.k.a. “baub-aus,” which were a big hit, for at least five minutes. The following day, once the wind had died down (it was still burly cold) and we had managed to venture over the sand dunes to the beach to show her the ocean, she thrust her finger out toward the waves and thoughtfully said, “Baub-au.”
A 14-month-old on the brink of expressing herself with language encounters literally hundreds of baub-aus in any normal day; anything from the noise of an airplane flying overhead to a caterpillar inching across the driveway. Put her on the beach for the first time, or at a world-famous national park, or inside a behemoth Las Vegas hotel, and there are bound to be thousands of baub-aus. (She has, luckily, discovered that there are other names for all those baub-aus, like “Fff “(fire), “Wawa” (water,) and “Light,” which she actually says correctly.)
Craig and I knew we’d be happy we took such a long trip, and traveled to such awe-inspiring places with our daughter, who has in the last six months blossomed from a baby girl into a little girl – a little girl who is beginning to share with the world what she thinks about it. What we hadn’t realized was that it wouldn’t always be us showing Elle all the baub-aus, but rather her showing them to us.
Standing atop Nevada Falls in Yosemite, a grey-haired man approached us.
“You know, I carried my son up here in a backpack like that. But that was thirty years ago,” he chuckled. “What I didn’t know then,” he said, pausing to look away from Elle in her backpack to the swirling spray of water blowing rainbows out across the valley below us, “was that that was going to be the best day of my life.”