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I am reading Not of Color by Sawako Ariyoshi (有吉佐和子『非色』) at the moment. I came across this paragraph detailing how the protagonist takes care of her newborn baby, Mary:

一年というもの、私の朝夕はメアリイと共に明け暮れたと言っていい。PXの買物の殆どはトムがしたし、母は来ると掃除とアイロンかけを手伝ってくれ、終わると早々に帰って行く。そこで私だけがメアリイにお座りをさせ、[あばば]{﹅﹅﹅}をしてみせ、メアリイの表情の変化を素早く読んでお尻をさっぱりさせてやった。(河出文庫 p.55)

The word あばば has an emphasis mark attached to it. I could not find this entry in several dictionaries. The closest I could find online was 『あばばばば』 by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, with the following explanation I took from another Q&A site:

語源は、赤ん坊をあやす時の「いないいないバア」のような「あばばばばぁ~」です。

Meaning it is something said when calming a baby. I would like to know

  • if this is a correct explanation of あばば in the 『非色』 excerpt too;
  • if there is any particular reason あばば was emphasised; and
  • how exactly the verb してみせる functions in this context.

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  • if this is a correct explanation of あばば in the 『非色』 excerpt too;

Yes, it is. To me, it is kind of oldish to call it あばば, it is now commonly referred to as いないいないばあ. Not only is it said, but it is done. See the video of this page, for example. Basically you cup and disclose your face to attract the attention of child.

  • if there is any particular reason あばば was emphasised; and

I think it is more for clarifying that あばば is a single word than emphasizing. The same usage explained in this chiebukuro answer.

仮名で書かれているので読みにくいために、<一つのことば>として区別できるようにしています。

  • how exactly the verb してみせる functions in this context.

してみせる literally means do and show. あばば here is considered as a movement rather than the phrase itself, so the sentence is saying I did (and showed) the movement of あばば to Mary.

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