Recently, there were two occasions when I was reminded of the beauty of communication. Thanksgiving this year took place at my grandson’s home. It was exceptionally special because it was his son Aiden’s first. At almost 3 months old, Aiden was at the stage where a baby recognizes that somehow those who comprise his world communicate with sounds. He was beginning to test this out as all babies his age do. His hands waved, his legs kicked, his head bobbed, and his mouth contorted. Finally, he was rewarded with a very quiet and brief, “Ohh.” His smile assured me he was well pleased with his success.
The second occasion, took place at my son-in-law’s parents’ home. His niece was visiting from Texas. Both she and her husband are deaf and have been since birth. Their two adorable children are not hearing impaired. When it was time for them to leave, his niece told her four year old to get ready. Callia, typical for a four year old, did not want to leave. A five-minute negotiation with her mother with verbal pleading accompanied with signing thoroughly entertained me. Her hands moved in rhythm with the nuances of her voice. Her engaging efforts did not win her argument although I’m sure in the future she will be gaining points in a courtroom.
Both of these observations of connecting people through words brought to my mind the beauty of communicating. Aiden has just begun his excursion into language. In the next two years he will develop a vocabulary larger than at any other time during his life. Then he’ll go to school where he’ll find a whole new world of linking thoughts through the written word. Callia already has the ability to share ideas not only to the hearing world with her voice but to the non-hearing world with her hands. When she begins to write, she will have an exciting new way to persuade others to her point of view.
Thinking about this highlighted an awareness, once again, of how lucky we are to be able to communicate in so many ways. As writers, we have been given the additional joy of sharing our thoughts and feelings with others through the written word. When asked on the Indiana Writers’ Consortium member survey what were my goals in writing, it was easy to answer because of where my thoughts have been. I want my written words to touch the hearts and souls of those who read them. Emily Neville in It’s like this, cat showed young teens that it’s okay as a 14 year-old to cry over a stray cat. Barbara Park in Mick Harte Was Here let her young readers share Phoebe’s tears when her anger over her brother’s death finally allowed her to cry. I want my writing to be able to unite people by evoking universal emotions.
I’m not there yet. Maybe I don’t have that novel or even a short story that does that yet. Where can I start?
It’s the Christmas/ Hanukkah season. This is a time when we decide to contact friends and families with joyous greetings. Now, I’m not too good with this. Longtime friends know I function on a 5-year Christmas card cycle. I buy them every year but usually get them out once in a half-decade. I find the nicest cards that have a lovely sentiment, but somehow they never seem right for everyone. Maybe there is a problem because at some point we decided to let Hallmark ™ express our feelings about and to people. When did we decide to delegate our opportunity to write a deeply felt sentiment to a corporation?
Okay, they have lovely pictures and do a nice job of it. But recently, I’ve gone one step lower in missing an opportunity to use the written word to express how much someone means to me by sending a mass or singular Christmas or birthday message on Facebook. Maybe Christmas is the perfect time to write a personal note that will evoke memories or emotions in the reader.
Don’t be mistaken. I’m not talking about those Christmas letters. As a young single mother, I hated those. After reading them, I’d feel like a failure because my children were not in every sport invented, played all instruments in an orchestra, or were ready to win a Rhodes Scholarship. The only feeling those evoked in me was nausea.
I could take a minute to script a brief sentence or two that would warm the heart of the receiver. Maybe on Sandy’s card I could say, “I miss you most this time of year when I remember how we shoveled out a croquet field in four feet of snow.” Or say to my cousin, Mary, “I’m reminded in this season of love how much you mean to me. You held me up when I left my sister’s funeral, standing and talking to me until I could stand on my own.”
Maybe these notes aren’t the novels I want to write that will touch a soul. But it’s a start. It will be enough for me to celebrate the season with the beauty of communication.