At the age of one, going on two, telephone calls from my granddaughter, three or four years ago, for a while became a fairly regular as well as welcome and enchanting occurrence. One such call prompted me to write this response.
It addresses that stage in a toddler’s life when they seem to be striving to develop their language skills to communicate with their adult family, but cannot find the words. So I, would pick up the the phone when she called, find myself (like a typical stupid adult) doing too much talking, trying, as we do, to encourage her to say more. What comes back the other way, not surprisingly having been patronised by her grandpa, is mostly silence accompanied by (and this is the truly enchanting bit) mutterings, sing-song tones and breathing, which only fuel my imagination, which rapidly, but mostly unsuccessfully, tries to figure out what it is she is trying to say. The particular phone call to which “Not Talking” is the response was in fact received by our answer phone messaging system, hence I was able to record it for posterity.
Our desire to help them talk can, of course, be dimmed once their newfound ability to talk leads to incessant nattering, which drives us in search of refuge!
But they will always remain an enchantment on our lives and a potential for renewal of our own childhood hopes and dreams.
You called; it seemed from somewhere far away.
You called to say hello in your sweet way.
Not so much with news but how you’re feeling;
our talk, not so much an open book as freewheeling.
You called to say your Dad was making tea;
that, whilst you wait, you’d make a call to me.
An inner smile grew as I listened on
to silences between the phrases of your song
that comes from somewhere in your life, so full
of carefree energy and zest, that you just pull
me with you and, yet, wherever it is you go
metaphysically, little do you know
how much it is you say to me, not talking
of all of your imaginings, while walking,
or perhaps you’re standing, hearing me,
whilst you contemplate what is for tea.
Whatever it may be that you are thinking
I know you’d love to talk and, in a blinking,
you will, and I’ll be thinking: are we blessed
or will we ask, politely, for you to rest?
– John Anstie
© 2010, essay and poem, John Anstie (My Poetry Library and 42)