In the summer before I started second grade, I began speech therapy classes. I have vague memories of the facility Mom took me to every Friday morning for about two months. I remember sitting in a room with cheerfully colored walls, and very bright overhead lights. There were shelves of toys and books all over the room, but I was too shy and nervous to play with anything on my first visit to the clinic. I was separated from my mom but found out later she was watching me from the next room through a one way mirror. I was fascinated with that mirror once I learned that Mom was just on the other side. I had never experienced something like that before and thought of myself as Alice In Wonderland or Snow White looking for answers beyond the glass. Over time, I began to feel comfortable in this place, especially when I was the only student receiving a lot of attention from the young, kind speech therapist. Wanting so badly to please her, I diligently practiced my letters over and over as she gently guided me through activities to practice my “r”’s and “s”’s.
Mom had a way of explaining the speech class sessions to me so that I would not be nervous. Her explanation made me excited and eager for Friday mornings. She told me that the clinic was a special place that only I could go without my brother and sisters. This really got my attention. I suddenly realized that I had my mom to myself for at least four and a half hours every week.
I got to sit in the front seat next to her on the two hour round trip ride. That was very unusual. Usually there was always a battle over riding shotgun when my brother and sisters were in the car. On the way, Mom would stop at a small convenience store to buy cokes and candy for us. Mom didn’t want anyone to be upset that I got a special treat, so she would warn me that it was our secret and not to tell my siblings. I never did. (Sorry, guys!) I liked sharing any secret with my mom.
I loved talking to Mom about things that I never told anyone else. One Friday morning during the drive, Mom was just asking me general questions about school and such. I finally stopped her and stated, “No, Mom, I want to talk like you and Grandma do.” Mom thought this was very funny and told my grandmother this statement as soon as we arrived back home. She may have found it amusing but I was being serious.
Over the years, I can remember sitting in the backseat of the car, squished in between my brother and sisters. I would lean over the front seat and listen intently to my mom and grandmother’s conversations. Now, of course, I know I shouldn’t have been eavesdropping but I was fascinated by the sound of their voices. Maybe it was because of my own struggles with speech, but I remember being awestruck by how their words just streamed together effortlessly and their spoken thoughts seemed to flow smoothly without any strain or tension. I wasn’t always interested in the games my siblings would play or telling silly stories. I wanted to discuss life issues and details, even though I was just six-years-old. Only there was one problem…I had no real experiences to talk about. Once I made my declaration of needing conversation, Mom and I remained silent for the rest of the ride home. We had nothing to say, had no idea where to start. I grew up, however, with a respect for language and words and just knew that I would not use words frivolously. For the next several years, I would only speak when it was absolutely necessary.
Years later, Mom and I would talk continually about life and love and death and dreams as we traveled. I would take in Mom’s pearls of wisdom with every mile we covered on the road. My six-year-old dream of driving along with Mom in deep conversation would eventually come true.