Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gah-Gah-Gah-Gladys Learns to Speak

Gladys had the worst overbite when she was a child. It was horrid. She could eat corn through a picket fence five miles away. You could stand under it to get out of the rain. It was so bad her teeth would enter the room fifteen minutes before she did.


You could blame it on bad genetics or even the fact that she sucked her thumb or had a pacifier until she was 10 but that wasn’t the reason. You see she sucked her bottom lip. That was her comfort. She must have learned it when she was stuck under that rock. I mean there really wasn’t anything else to suck on under there. Her thumbs were dirty from the ground and well it is kind of cramped under the rock. What rock? Go here and read this Found Under a Rock “ I’ll wait.

Meme used to give Matilda instructions to pull Gladys' bottom lip out if she caught her sucking it. Matilda being the big sister would go to bed later.   She would go to bed and catch her sucking away on her lip and she would pull it out. Gladys would not wake up but would suck it back in.  Matilda would pull it out. This would go on until finally Matilda would get board and go to sleep. Gladys on the other hand would happily suck the night away. Maybe Gladys never got past the oral stage or maybe she was weaned to young or maybe it just felt good.  Who knows but it went on for a long time.

Gladys was sitting in class innocently working in her SRA book when a woman entered the classroom.

The woman whispered to Mrs. Whimpkins and then pointed towards Gladys. Gladys watched the two women talk and gesture and she knew it involved her. Perhaps they were discussing letting her go home early because her mother had finally bought her that pony she wanted. Yes, Gladys surmised, that must be it. Meme has finally acquiesced and purchased me a paint pony with a braided mane and a pink saddle. Gladys pictured herself astride her steed riding the range singing cowboy songs. She daydreamed that she would catch cattle rustlers and scoundrels and rope them from her perch atop Old Paint. She would let Matilda be her trusty sidekick just like Gabby Hayes was Smiley Burnett’s sidekick; just like Tonto was the Lone Ranger’s sidekick or Poncho was the Cisco Kid’s sidekick.

She was brought back to reality when Mrs. Whimpkins tapped her arm “Gladys? GLADYS!” Gladys jumped a little and realized she was not riding the range; she in fact wasn’t even on her trusty steed, Old Paint. The fact of the matter was she didn’t even own any horse even though she had hoped and prayed to the baby Jesus for one. “Yes Mrs. Whimpkins? I’m sorry I was concentrating on my SRA workbook” she scrambled. Mrs. Whimpkins sighed as only a third grade teacher would and could understand. “Gladys, this here is Miss Crisp. She is our special student’s teacher and she would like you to go with her.” Gladys froze. Did Mrs. Whimpkins say special needs? Gladys searched her pea brain to remember just what that meant. Did it mean she was special and they knew she needed a pony? Then she remembered that it meant classes for kids that weren’t like everyone else.

Gladys panicked. The school must have found out that she was found under a rock and therefore was special. How could this have happened? Matilda and Buck had made her promise not to tell anyone. They said if she did that people would come and take her away or put her back under the rock. They often threatened to tell people she was found under a rock when she was being annoying. Her heart went into her throat. She tried to swallow it back down and said “I don’t want to go back under the rock. I want to stay with the family that found me.” Mrs. Whimpkins raised her left eyebrow and said “Gladys what are you talking about? Miss Crisp is here to help you with your speech.” Now it was Gladys’ turn to lift an eyebrow “I have to give a speech?” Mrs. Whimpkins chuckled and said “not yet but someday maybe. Just go with Miss Crisp she will explain it all to you.”

Gladys put her SRA workbook back in its holder and headed out the door with Miss Crisp. She drug her feet and bit back the tears. She didn’t want to go back under the rock. She kind of liked the family that found her even though Buck and Matilda made fun of her buck teeth and big ears. She even kind of loved them even though they aggravated and picked at her. She was definitely attached to them. She really liked Nurse Meme and Trooper Bob a lot to. You could even say she loved them. She loved the way Trooper Bob read the encyclopedia to her and showed her how to do things. She loved the way Nurse Meme let her lick the beaters when she made meringue for her famous chocolate pie. Just a few minutes ago she was thinking she was getting a pony and now here she was on her way to being shoved back under her rock.

They reached the classroom and Gladys realized Miss Crisp had been talking to her the whole time. She caught the last little bit of what Miss Crisp was saying “and we will take care of that tongue thrust with just a little bit of exercise.” Gladys looked up at Miss Crisp and thought why are we trying to get rid of a tongue thrush? What is a tongue thrush? “So what are you going to do to me?” Gladys inquired. Miss Crisp smiled and said “I’m going to teach you how to speak properly.”

Now Gladys had come out of the womb talking. She didn’t need anyone to teach her how to talk. Heck she could out talk anyone she knew. She was a professional talker. She knew she had a bit of an accent but other than that she could speak fine. She started to tell Miss Crisp this when she entered the classroom of misfits. She looked around and saw Laura the listhper and Sam the stutterer in the corner sat Benny the booger eater. Why was she in this room? She didn’t understand.

“Now Gladys I want you to come sit over here in my special section for tongue thrusters” Miss Crisp instructed. Gladys slowly made her way across the room and sat at a table with a mirror. Then Miss Crisp proceeded to explain to Gladys that the reason she stuttered and had an overbite was because she had a tongue thrust. Gladys took a deep breath and began to protest “Miss Crisp, I don’t have a tongue thrush and I don’t stutter. Miss Crisp didn’t let her finish she plodded on “now I graduated from YOU TEA and this was my specialty. I can help you right on out of that nasty tongue thrust. I will have you saying Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers in no time.” Gladys smiled her bucked tooth smile and said “but I can already say that and I can say rubber baby buggy bumpers. My brother taught me to say that.” Miss Crisp smiled and patted Gladys’ head and gave her a paper with a drawing of a mouth and a tongue. “Gladys I want you to study this diagram and mimic it. Do exactly what it shows you to do and practice keeping your tongue in the roof of your mouth when you swallow. I’ll be back to check on you in a moment. The she moved on to Laura the listhper who was looking in a mirror saying little Lisa licked a lollypop; only it came out listhalicthdalothypop. Gladys sighed and looked at the diagram on the table.

Gladys went to this room every day after lunch. The other kids called her stupid and asked her if she rode a short bus. Every afternoon Gladys would go home and cry in her pillow. She knew she wasn’t stupid. She got good grades. She read on a high school level and she had made it all the way up to the very top SRA workbooks. She did exactly what Miss Crisp told her to do after all Gladys always did as she was told. She practiced swallowing with her tongue in the roof of her mouth and rolling her “r’s”. She practiced speaking slowly but being that she was from Texas she already spoke slowly. She noticed something happening to her speech, she now tripped over her “sc” words and couldn’t get her “t” words out without sounding like a machine gun. She started putting a “th” in the middle and on the end of words that shouldn’t. She began sounding like Stuttering Sam and Lisping Laura.

Miss Crisp was confused. She began working one on one with Gladys. She worked and worked until finally she asked “you didn’t stutter before you came to this class?” Gladys shook her head from side to side afraid to open her mouth now. “Did you ever have a lisp” Miss Crisp continued. Again Gladys signaled a negative. “Well I know you have a tongue thrust otherwise you wouldn’t have such a bad overbite.” Gladys stopped her head shake in mid-no and her face reddened. “I suck my bottom lip when I sleep” Gladys whispered lowly and slowly. “What? What did you say” Miss Crisp leaned in to hear. “I sa-sa-sa-sa-said th-th-that I s-s-s-s-suck on ma-ma-ma-my bo-bo-bo-tom lipth when I-I-I sa-sa-sa-leeepth.”

Miss Crisp got up from the kid sized chair and walked out of the room. Gladys sat picking her fingernails and staring at the floor. One of her secrets was out. She prayed that her other big secret would not be found out. She would be mortified if everyone knew she not only sucked her bottom lip but that she was also found under a rock. She picked the lint from her cotton dress and looked at the scuffs on her Hush Puppies. Finally the door opened and Miss Crisp returned with Mrs. Whimpkins. Mrs. Whimpkins stood in the doorway talking until finally she called for Gladys. She got up and walked to where her two teachers were standing and looked up at them afraid and sad. “Gladys you are going to come back to the classroom with me. You are done with your speech therapy. You can use this time to do your SRA workbooks again.” Gladys took Mrs. Whimpkins hand relieved and happy. “U-U-U-You mah-mah-mah-mean I’m cu-cu-cured?” Miss Crisp blanched and said “absolutely.”

2 comments:

Ms Martyr said...

SRA workbooks! I'd completely forgotten about those.
I had buck teeth from sucking my thumb and also got to go to speech therapy. The only thing I remember is the song, "I'm a little teapot short and stout. Here is my handle, here is my spout. When you tip me over hear me shout, 'Tip me over and pour me out.'" I'm guessing I must have had problems with the letter "T."
Also a tongue thruster and have undone most of the good work done by an orthodontist.
Ah, memories from 50 years ago...

VE said...

Uh oh, you're speaking in third person...that's always a tricky lesson when learning to speak...