Christie Had A Speech Impediment

Her unwit­ting nick­name in high school was Fudd (as in Elmer), because her “r“s came out as baby­ish “w“s.

This was par­tial­ly due to the fact that she would imi­tate her old­er broth­er in admi­ra­tion dur­ing child­hood, after he devel­oped his own imped­i­ment from an oro­fa­cial sports injury. The oth­er, and much more severe, aspect of her imped­i­ment was a ran­dom and sud­den inabil­i­ty to speak. No stut­ter, no slur.

As her speech ther­a­pist explained, it was a short-cir­cuit in the brain, caus­ing her to believe that a sen­tence was fin­ished when she was only half-way through say­ing it. The only prob­lem was that she would get stuck on a word. On good days she sim­ply could­n’t repeat it, on bad days she could­n’t speak at all. Most peo­ple thought it was brought on by a rather trau­mat­ic series of events brought on by her sup­posed friends in high school. The was­cals.

I always found it endear­ing, but she nev­er cared for it. One of the tricks she used to get by was to take her time in say­ing a word. E‑nun-ci-ate. It was like mas­sag­ing the ten­sion from a mus­cle, and slow­ly, she would be able to speak again. Another trick was to imag­ine being in a com­fort zone, which was her room, to relax when she was flus­tered.

I’ve always found that girls share some intrin­sic bond with their rooms. It’s almost as if they’re fol­low­ing an evo­lu­tion­ary nest­ing instinct, and their rooms become their homes. A place to grow and be safe. Along with the care­ful­ly lined-up books and the ran­dom pieces of jew­ellery, the hid­den cache of pho­tos and the pur­pose­ful­ly placed can­dles (some of which must nev­er be lit), are the char­ac­ter­is­tic quirks.

Christie could nev­er fall asleep if one of her dozen stuffed ani­mals were fac­ing her. Her bed­time rit­u­al was to make sure that each one was turned away.

In time, Christie’s com­fort zone became the walk-in-clos­et of my room. She was old enough to make love, but simul­ta­ne­ous­ly too young to stay overnight, so we would spend most of our time in there, the place where we could reach out and feel the walls around us, con­fined to the inti­ma­cy of the enclo­sure. We spread out the blan­ket, lit the can­dles, and closed the door.

After a while, the humid­i­ty would build up, and this was no more appar­ent than in the win­ter when we would crack open the door and tan­gi­bly feel the chill on our skin. Opening the sun she called it, as the day­light sharply spilled on the blan­ket that cov­ered us. It was the only place where we could shut out the world, the only place that felt like night.

In a rela­tion­ship, shar­ing the night is more impor­tant than shar­ing flu­ids. Falling asleep with some­one is an accep­tance of trust, a way of say­ing that we’re com­fort­able enough to drift into our sub­con­scious minds. Perhaps it was the unavail­abil­i­ty of such a rit­u­al that’s giv­en the night so much sig­nif­i­cance.

Having no night of our own, we had to make due. I cov­ered one side of a card­board pan­el with glow-in-the-dark stars and sus­pend­ed it from the top of the room. The pan­el was large enough to fill the vision, and in the dark­ness the clos­et became a micro­cosm of the star­ry sky. Even in the mid­dle of day it was near black­ness, and we’d lose track of time, hud­dled under the blan­kets with her sleep­ing at my chest, or lying there face-to-face, talk­ing while I ran my fin­gers through her hair. Sometimes, all we would do was get togeth­er and nap.

And even­tu­al­ly, Christie did­n’t have much trou­ble speak­ing any­more.


  1. I, myself, am a bit speech­less now. That was beau­ti­ful. I did­n’t want it to end.

  2. i find myself get­ting on your web­site any time i can. Searching with­in your words for encour­age­ment, modi­va­tion, love, and saddness. Somehow, your entries soothe me; i dont know why this com­bon­a­tion of thoughts and mem­o­ries cap­ti­vates and moves me as much as it does, but it has its effects none the less.

    i have read over half of your posts, and this one has touched me like no oth­er.

    thank you.

    • I’m so glad that some­one is able to find joy in my writ­ing.

  3. i always find joy in your writ­ing. who could­nt?

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