The Little Horse

By Isabella Briggs

“Trotta trotta cavallino.” 

Three words I still think about. They do not have any particular importance. They do not mean anything special. 

When I first heard these words, I was young. My grandmother sat in an old rocking chair, holding me on her lap. I cannot quite remember the couch’s pattern or who sat there, but that is of little importance. 

I focused intently on my grandmother’s words. I could tell they were not English, but that did not matter. 

An infant does not require the meaning of words, only the entertainment they provide. I sat there in pure bliss, giggling along as Ninna chanted the phrase, moving her knees up and down to the rhythm. 

“Trotta trotta cavallino. Galoppa, galoppa, galoppa, galoppa.” 

Ninna’s voice sounded natural this way. Her heavy Italian accent for these words. She pronounced them correctly, unlike when she spoke to me in English. 

My young mind did not know why she sounded different. I did not know Italian was her first language. I did not know she grew up in Italy during a war. I did not know she never completed her schooling in America and therefore never mastered the English language. 

All that mattered as I sat there happily was her voice as she repeated those words, just to make me smile. Because that was all I needed. 

I would learn the rest later.