“Alright, sweetie, let’s get ya outta there.”
I bend down, and unbuckle Elliot from his stroller. He giggles in appreciation as I lift him out, then promptly repays my kindness by sprinting towards the park’s icy fountain. I run after him, and catch the toddler in my arms before his little gloved hands touch jagged ice.
“No ma dear. Ya musn’t touch that. It needs left alone.”
My consonants begin to slur, my hard r’s growl from the back of my throat, and my a’s embed themselves high in my nasal cavities. And for a moment, I am no longer in a New England park. I am back in Northeastern Ohio. I am a little girl, trying to touch a glass jar on a supermarket shelf, barely stopped by my mother’s arms.
“No ma dear.” My mother said. “Ya musn’t touch that. It needs left alone.”
My consonants begin to slur, my hard r’s growl from the back of my throat, and my a’s embed themselves high in my nasal cavities.
Five years away from Northeastern Ohio has helped to smooth out my hard, folksy, Midwestern accent. Studying in both in England and at an Ivy League institution has further gentrified it. I say “back” instead of “beACK” on a regular basis now. But, those Midwestern speech patterns and accents do come back. I hear them when I am giving practical advice, I hear them when I speak with friends I love and trust, I hear them when I talk to children. My Midwestern accent comes out when I am relaxed, when I am willing to be completely vulnerable. Hard r’s and nasal a’s are my auditory reminders of home, of parental nurture, of unconditional love.
I am not the first to think this way. Centuries ago, Dante wrote his beautiful sacred poetry in Italian instead of Latin. Though Latin was the scholarly language of the church, Italian was the language of Dante’s mother and father–the language that reminded him of deep, unspoken intimacy and love. A much more intuitive medium for him to explore God’s love for humanity through.
My Midwestern accent comes out when I am relaxed, when I am willing to be completely vulnerable.
Elliot wiggles in my arms, now. He points at his stroller.
“Oh, do you want to go beACK?”
“Okay, then. Give me your hand.”
He reaches out his small hand, I take it into my larger one, and we walk back to the stroller. Thank God love manifests in many different ways; thank God love wraps itself up in daily word and tone.