Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CHILDHOOD (03/09/17)
TITLE: All The Words That Run Away
By Jan Ackerson
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I’m four years old and I’ve never said the word. I don’t say very many words, but I want you to know that I understand everything you say. Maybe you’re sad because I can say grandpa and yogurt and kitty. I don’t say mama—because you are everything. The whole world is mama. When I wake up at night and look at the moonlight on my bedroom wall, when I watch the rain from our front porch, when the television is on and Elmo makes me laugh—those things are love, and they are mama. But how can one word be all those things?
And right now, while we are asleep in my bed, all the words that usually run away from me are right here. They won’t stay for long, and they’ll be gone when we wake up. So I want to tell you—mama—about being your little girl.
On the way home from preschool today, you asked me lots of questions.
“Were you a good girl at circle time?” I was a good girl, mama, and I said ya to you. I knew that would make you happy.
“Did you eat your applesauce?” Ya.
“Did you keep your glasses on?” Ya.
And then you asked something silly: “Did you have a pickle for lunch?” I shook my head and grinned at you, and said more more more, because when you ask your questions I can tell you all about my day. If you ask me enough questions, I might be able to tell you that Miss Jeanne read a book about a hungry caterpillar and Rodney fell down in the playground and I used a yellow crayon. Please ask more questions, mama. I love it when I hear your words.
One day you were in the kitchen and I pulled the baby doll out of my toy box. I was looking for my music turtle, but just then I noticed the doll’s face for the first time. Miss Jeanne is teaching us eyes and ears and nose, and I touched them on the doll and thought the words. You were making my sandwich and you didn’t see, but when you came into the room, you saw me kiss the baby. I was practicing, mama. Being just like you.
Sometimes I pull your hair or pinch your hand. I know what you mean when you tell me to have nice hands, but I have to do it, anyway. I have to be sure it will always be the same, that you’ll always be my mama. It’s like when you go to the mailbox, and you tell me you’ll be right back. I think the words right back, and you always come back. But sometimes I have to pull or pinch, just to be sure you’re still here, and you’re still you. Don’t be sad.
You know what I love?
When you let me pick which yogurt I want. It doesn’t really matter to me whether I get cherry or peach—I just like being able to choose.
Pretty barrettes in my hair. If I pull them out, I’m not being naughty. I just want you to put them back in again.
I love my bath, when you let me blow bubbles. Our walks around the pond in our neighborhood, when I run ahead of you. When I look back and you're always there, always smiling for me. The wheels on the bus and the itsy bitsy spider and old McDonald. The silly games you play with my toys. When you rub my back, and when you let me take a nap on you, even though I’m almost too big for your lap now. Kisses. All the kisses.
We'll be awake soon, mama, and I think the words will be gone—for a little while. So there's one more thing I want to tell you about before morning.
I remember that other mama, in the long months before I was born. For most little ones, those months are warm and peaceful. For me, they were dark and scary, because that other mama was sad and sick and afraid. But I remember coming to the light and straight into your arms. I remember the whisper that calmed my heart: This is your mama now. She is safe. She is your home .
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