With my mum gone for a couple of years now, it’s especially poignant for me to hear that old saw, “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse!”
When I was just a baby, my mother taught me to recite “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Word has it that I could recite it all until I got to “The moon on the crest of the new fallen snow gave a lustre of midday to objects below.” But here’s the thing: I was only a baby. I wasn’t even 2 years old – I was one and a half. She read it to me every night getting ready for Christmas and then I recited it with her, so she knew I had learned it. Then I just said it without the book. (Have I mentioned to you that I have ALWAYS been verbal?) So now when I think of the lovely rhythms and rhymes in the poem, how I learned the words in sequence, the patterns of the word rhythms, the meanings such as I could gather – not much at first but reinforced as the years went on, I am just so grateful that my mum took all that time to love me in that way.
Now when I use words, appreciate words, think or write, I have such gratitude to my dear and loving young mother who gave me that great gift. She was just 30 years old or so, and delighted in life. She really listened to what I said, and it brought out in me the ability to speak. She didn’t necessarily correct me but allowed me to discover what I was saying, what I was expressing, and affirmed it at source. It was a way for her to love me and for me to love her back.
Later, when I became older, adolescent and more secretive, thinking that I was so very different from her and her expectations of me, I held back my words from her. I didn’t tell her what I was thinking or doing. But by then I could write, and think, and read, for myself, or so I thought. Yet when I wrote in my diary, or had my private worded experiences I was actually building on the foundation that she had begun for me so many years before, singsong reading The Night Before Christmas, or encouraging a little baby to speak, and tell, and share. Not information, but rhythm, sounds, and love, in the beauties of the English language, with all its quirks and playful twirls and swirls. At the time I took it all for granted. All those words, flying through our hearts on the wings of love!