My Mother’s Voice

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The first day my mother loses her voice, it is as if there were suddenly no more rules or regulations. No commanding voice bouncing through the halls, no lively conversations, no late-night talks. Dinner is a quiet affair.

We move slower to her whispered commands of “come downstairs,” or “don’t forget to do the laundry” or “give your brother your calculator.” We get the job done—it just takes us twenty minutes longer. It’s much easier to pretend you didn’t hear your mother after her fiftieth call to come eat when she does not have a voice.

By day two, her voice comes back in a scratchy husk. Still at ten percent volume, but with it comes an exponential increase in authority. We move quicker to her requests. Our conversations are still one-sided; my laugh seems empty without hers to buoy us on.

There are advantages to my whispering mother. At a restaurant, when we are served half-cooked chicken wings, she can only point at the red meat and let my father do the explaining. When the waiter explains that this is the texture of the chicken, that the red meat is actually a sign of well-exercised muscles, that the kitchen cooks the wings three times in three different ways, my mother can’t raise her voice and say, I am a mother. I have been cooking for almost twenty years. I know cooked when I see it. This is not cooked. Instead, she whispers something and I catch the words “picture” and “Yelp” but before she can reach for her phone and turn on the camera, the waiter has already whisked the wings back to the kitchen. My family breathes a sigh of relief.

It’s one of the things I’ve always admired about her: a complete boldness to stand up for what’s right, whether it’s demanding properly cooked food or championing a charity or telling us again and again, “All is well. You can do all things through Christ. You are greatly blessed, highly favored, and deeply loved. Follow your passion and chase your dreams. You are more than enough.” Even without a voice she conveys that to us in the way she prepares food, prays for us, and tucks us in at night.

I come home that Saturday after a defeat at a competition. As the story pours out, she listens with open eyes and nods. As disappointment steals over me, I begin to cry. Without a word she leans over and rubs my back, and with that, I know all is well again.

Do you have stories of your relationship with your mom? Share them below!

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