|Photo by John Keogh|
I speak Lithuanian. Or maybe it’s Klingon.
I never knew I spoke Lithuanian or Klingon, but it’s the only explanation. You see, I talk all the time, giving the various members of my household instructions and answers and counsel and wisdom.
And no one ever acknowledges a single word I say.
100% true, unexaggerated, unembellished story (not that I ever exaggerate or embellish stories) which happened just moments ago:
MOTHER: Little Girl! Comb your hair, then go upstairs and have your reading time.
LITTLE GIRL: Can you comb my hair?
MOTHER: Yes. (Combs Little Girl’s hair.) Now go have your reading time.
LITTLE GIRL: Can you comb my hair?
MOTHER: I combed your hair. Now go upstairs to your bedroom and read for thirty minutes.
LITTLE GIRL: Can I read in my bedroom?
MOTHER: Go upstairs. To your bedroom. And read.
LITTLE GIRL: Is it okay if I read for a while before I go to bed?
MOTHER: Yes. Go read.
LITTLE GIRL: In my bedroom?
She gets good grades, scores above average on tests of intelligence, and passes her hearing exam every year at the pediatrician’s office. So the only explanation for this kind of stunningly floundered dialogue is that I am failing to speak English.
Another true story. The kiddos were going to spend a four-day weekend with their aunt and uncle, who take the children to their neighborhood pool at least once a day. I gave my progeny written packing lists. I instructed them to check off each item as they put it into their suitcases. When we were about to leave I asked if they packed everything on the list.
“Yes,” came the unanimous reply.
“Did you pack two swimsuits?” I questioned each child individually.
“Yes,” said the littlest one.
“Yes,” replied the middle one.
“Yes,” answered the oldest one.
Not forty minutes later, one-third of the way into the drive to the home of my sister- and brother-in-law, the boy piped up from the back.
“I forgot my swim trunks.”
I may have roared a little.
With the rear-view mirror adjusted to convey the full reflection of my facial wrath to the child, I asked, “Did you not tell me, when I specifically asked this very question, that you had packed two swimsuits?”
“You never asked me that!”
Yes, I did.
“It wasn’t on the list!”
Yes. It. Was.
Even my husband suffers from my inability to speak the common language of the household.
Back in the day he served in the Navy. During his first hour home following a six-month deployment, he noticed our new calendar. He took it down and looked through the pictures.
“Isn’t that gorgeous?” I said. “I got it at the aquarium. They had all their calendars on sale fifty percent off after the first of the year, and I thought the underwater photos of the dolphins were exceptional.”
He returned the page to the present month and hung it back on the wall. Then he turned to me. “That’s a cool calendar. Where’d you get it?”
I majored in English. I used to teach English. I write poetry and novels and blogs. In English. Which people tell me they read. And understand. And sometimes even like.
Yet somehow, in my own home, with my own people, I am failing to communicate in the lingua franca of which I otherwise appear so competent.
I have long known that mothers are invisible. The laundry magically washes itself and mysteriously reappears in drawers and closets. Food materializes on the table every evening at six o’clock via the imperceptible hand of destiny. Messes evaporate because the house maintains itself like a giant, benevolent automaton.
My friend once set the table for dinner at her house, relieving her children of their usual shared responsibility because they’d all been busy with evening extracurriculars. After the meal the kids tried to sort out whose turn it was to clear the dishes. “Who set the table?” one asked. “Nobody,” another replied. “Well, I mean Mom did.”
We are nobody.
Now it seems I have become both nobody and functionally mute.
I can say anything I want, anytime I want, anywhere I want, because my words are meaningless.
“I’m going to eat the last full-size Snickers bar from your Halloween stash.”
“I think I will now dance naked on the front lawn to the music of Nelly.”
“I am going upstairs to hari-kari myself in the bathtub. Farewell, my family.”
Seriously, the above are all things I have actually said, to no response.
But there is an upside to this. A silver lining that reveals the true nature of life and kin and human relationships. A conclusion to the matter which repairs the heart and elevates the spirit and renews the discouraged soul. A message of hope and joy and peace and love. And that message is:
Blah blah blah, blah-blah, blah-dee-dee, blah blah blah.
(Your email address will never be shared or sold. At least, not by me.)