How My Mother Lost Her Voice and Gave Me Mine

Photo of a screaming baby.In 1931, my mother Helen was 9. A daredevil, she challenged boys at their games, ignored their hair pulling, their scrunchy faces. My grandmother warned: “Act like a lady!”

One day, on roller skates, racing a boy on his bicycle, Helen went flying. She hit her jaw on the pavement, knocked out her front teeth, a blood-soaked mess. The dentist refused to replace her teeth until her mouth “matured.” Ashamed of the gap, Helen stopped speaking, brewed silence in her genes like strong tea.

Eventually she turned out one quiet child after another.

Until I showed up, red-faced and bawling.

Nancy Ludmerer‘s stories appear in Best Small Fictions 2016, Kenyon Review, Fish Anthology, Green Mountains Review, North American Review, Cimarron Review, Litro, and Sou’wester, among others.

Photo Credit: Sergio Maistrello

16 Responses to “How My Mother Lost Her Voice and Gave Me Mine”

  1. Pam Burger says:

    Great, I like it!

  2. Delia Tañag says:

    Really love this one! Hope to receive your response regarding my first message the soonest possible time!

  3. Delia Tañag says:

    Hi Nancy!I love this story! I’m creating a literature module regarding the elements of fiction for my students. Is it alright with you if I use this story of yours? Your favorable response will be greatly appreciated.

    • Nancy says:

      Yes, Delia! I don’t know how it is I didn’t see this until now. You can certainly use my story. All best, and I hope my message isn’t too late to be helpful.

  4. Pam says:

    Great story. Loved “one quiet child after another.” And then your ending!!

  5. Jeanette says:

    Great story Nancy. The last line is a perfect gem of an ending. Not only because I feel like I know your mom, but also because I know you and know this to be true 🙂

    Eileen took my other favorite line here!

  6. Loved this recollection of your mother’s early life. As I remember, that is exactly how she was when I knew her. And perfect illustration for your story.

  7. Nancy Ludmerer says:

    Thank you Eileen! That’s one of my favorite lines, too, from all my micros .

  8. Pam says:

    Nancy, lovely to see another Ludmerer story. Great movement.

  9. Steve Jaffe says:

    Wonderful, Nancy. Very short – but concise and poignant.

  10. Eileen Elliott says:

    I love “brewed silence in her soul like tea”!

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