Monday, December 24, 2012

I forgive you, my Stutterings

May you be openings through which better light can shine.

Every Christmas Eve, I listened to the best story, holding my breath as my father read word by precarious word.  About the time when
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
I say “precarious” because my father had a speech impediment:

He stuttered
      each sentence like shutters
            banging in the wind      I had
                  to learn to listen
for more   than words   to sit
      silent   holding   back
            my quick   inaccurate
                  translations until he
                        wrestled his own words
out   panting   into the open
He wouldn’t like me to draw attention to his impediment – that he stuttered. He worked all his life to overcome it, to work around it, to be so smart and quick in other ways that any slowness of speech became unremarkable.

When I read my poem above to him -- I had meant it as an act of love and forgiveness for the angers of my teenage years -- he sat back like I had just slapped him. I think all he heard was lack and failings.

He didn’t hear how it was the very slowness of his speech that opened the story for me. How his slow and careful reading, slowed me. Made me see, instead of swiftly skating over. Made me hear.

The way he read, even through the years when we were so often angry at each other, let the starlight and the light of love in the mother’s and the child’s eyes shine in and fill me. Made me feel how it could possibly be that an all-powerful and flawless Love, the Creator of the universe, could enter into this broken world of anger and taxes and the wandering poor, a world which thought it had no room for Him.

So that now, any one else’s voice is never as good -- is too quick, too slick, too sure of itself. Now when I read these words to myself,
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
I read it slow and hesitating, wondering, trembling a little, remembering how as a child
I would shut
                  my eyes    hunkering
                        down until the fretwork
opened and there
      in the articulated    hes-
            itation    between
                  words    see starlight    see
                        lantern's glow on
heaped straw    see the shifting
      feet of cattle    their warmth
            their whuffling breath    the lamb’s small
                  bleat    and far off the icy    voice
of angels

 for I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people

And now I am the mother, with you, my Gaps and Failings, the ways I stutter in the language of love.  Now I can only hope my children can hear around you and through you and despite you that same clear singing that I heard and hear still.

Ah, that singing, hear it ringing, earthward winging, Christmas bringing,
Hearken!  We can hear it, too. 

[revised from Dec. 2009:  "where there is room" ]


Andrea said...

My thoughts exactly. I remember lying on my back, staring up at the lit star on the tree, hearing the magic of that story for the first time...after so many years of hearing it and being frustrated at how slow the story unfolded, wanting to get busy with the Santa part and the sleeping and waiting til morning part..for the first time giving in to the slow unraveling of the scene and feeling that chilly brisk air and seeing Mary and Joseph and not wanting that story to end, wanting that magical moment to be drawn out even longer than dad could make it last.

Emma J said...

Ah, Andrea . . . you said it even better than I did. That's it exactly.

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