A Grandmother Listens

By Gail Hosking

September 3, 2018

A Grandmother Listens

She is a bird in song with whole consonants flying out of the cave of her tiny mouth, the tones airborne like a floating leaf. She hands me a block, and with it comes language not yet molded into comprehension, but so sweet, that I listen carefully like one does on a forest walk. You can see understanding in her eyes as clear as a bell ringing from a cathedral. “Shake it, Alta,” her mother tells her when referring to a small plastic jar with something loose inside. “Shake it real hard.” And she does suddenly, back and forth with amusement. Her two pigtails of blond hair stick up from her 18-month-old body.

One hour you hold her head in your palm--the day she first cries in the world--and you try on the sound of her name. Then here she is with her new inflections of cadence and pitch. Words and sentences will follow. Whole paragraphs will arrive too like cries of a loon on a lake. She will gather these utterances and lean toward us to speak their worth. It’s a testimony to joy. Someday she will invoke the dark green of her parents’ garden, the living graphs of time, and the pull toward triumph and love. I will be listening because she has already put her one life upon me like a deep impression made in my body. I turn toward her voice. I am all ears.

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