Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

In the days when my parents were telling stories, before their memories of the past began to disappear, my father liked to say that every night when he and my mom put me to bed and closed the door, I was talking. The next morning, when they returned to wake me up, they opened the door to find me still talking. For all they knew, according to Dad, I’d been moving my mouth for a solid ten hours.I was the third of five children, born to two verbal parents skilled at spinning yarns, and sandwiched among siblings who learned from the masters. To be heard in that crowd, I needed to yammer and jaw: “Listen to me! Over here! I, too, have something to say!”

But over the years, my passion for speech shifted. Instead of spewing out random thoughts that entered my head, I wanted to write them down. I needed to write them down. It didn’t matter if the writing occurred in a simple black-marbled notebook or a fancy cloth-covered journal, on a scrap of receipt or the back of an envelope. What mattered was the act of committing words to paper.

In many situations, I remain a chatty raconteur. At big family gatherings, especially, with my dad and mom presiding at each end of the table, I love to tell a good story. And at home, sharing a meal with my husband and kids, or driving or hiking or playing with them or anyone else, I revert to my persona of gabby child.

At the same time, though, at this stage of life, I finally recognize the value of not talking. Of seeing where silence takes me. The great, vast and open possibility of staying quiet.

Jessica O’Dwyer’s essay The Mother In The Square appears in Mamas Write.

About The Author
Jessica O'Dwyer
Jessica O'Dwyer

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