Tambor Tambol Tambog / by Susie Lubell

On the way home from preschool the other day I asked my son what he did all day and after prodding for some time I came to understand that he rode the tricycle, he ate his peanut butter sandwich, he played with Miss Cassia and Miss Lorena outside, he went down the slide with Gracie, he played "get me" with Pablo, and he drew something with a red marker. A full day indeed.

Then he said he got in the Tambor.
Me: The sandbox?
Him: No, the tambor.
Me: The Tambor?
Him: No, the tambor.
Me: pause
Me: The tambol?
Him: No, the Tambor. And Miss Chen Jin do it to me.
Me: (completely perplexed)
Me: What did you do with Miss Chen Jin?
Him: She put the tambor off me.
Me: She played with you in the sandbox?
Him: (Angrily) No! The tambor!

This went on for a while. I had no idea what he was talking about. Usually if I say the word enough times it morphs into the word he's trying to say. Or if I add an R where he says an O. That sometimes helps. But I am telling you I was totally stumped. And then I remembered a year ago when my nephew, who's a year older than my son, came home from school saying POPOSSI. No one had any idea what he was talking about. We spent probably an hour pointing at different things in his room. Is that a popossi? Nothing. But he kept saying it. Whispering it in fact which made it funnier and likewise more intriguing. Two weeks later we were visiting them again and I asked him about the popossi and he drew a total blank. And that is how the elusive popossi disappeared from our vernacular forever. I was sad to see it leave because whispering it still makes me giggle.

But back to Tambor. What the hell is tambor and why is Miss Chen Jin doing it to my son? And why whenever I pronounce it exatly like my son is pronouncing does he get all huffy and correct my pronunciation? Pardonez moi, Moiliere...How dare I bastardize your langue. I can only imagine that's how he feels when he pronounces a word and I correct him and he says it again the exact same way and so on for weeks.

For instance, the city is doing construction on our street and we have a book about big trucks so we look at all of the trucks outside and find them in the book. Apparently not everything is called a tractor. Who knew.

Me: You see the excavator outside?
Him: Ya, the accelrator.
Me: Right, the excavator. It's so big.
Him: That's a big accelrator.
Me: EXCAVATOR
Him: ACCELRATOR

Whatever. He gets the idea. Me, I'm still in the dark about this tambor tambol tamborg tampon tanbork. I'll report back if I figure it out. Your guesses are welcome.