"Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. 'Pooh,' he whispered. 'Yes, Piglet?' 'Nothing,' said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw, 'I just wanted to be sure of you.'" – "Winnie the Pooh"
When my sister leaned in to whisper in my ear, her cupped hand curled sideways at the corner of her mouth, freshly swiped with mint lip gloss, producing a sleepy satisfying smile on my face, she was as an artist reflecting my soul.
What is more organically intimate than having someone dear whisper words into your ear, expressing messages of which no one else is privy?
A soft-spoken private expressway, not to announce or broadcast, this intensely personal method of communication embodies an uncommon connection.
Quietly articulated thoughts, whispered feelings and aspirations are muted reservations for two who share a history. Only for bonded sojourners who go way back, for lovers and friends, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, teammates and classmates.
Rarely, if ever, do strangers share whispers, an increasingly seldom-used form of communication these days.
Possessing a lifelong fascination with how people communicate, I had no other choice but to take this fearlessly trodden path for my career, going on 30 years now. Over time, I have observed that some of the most powerful forms of communication are like prayers, quiet and silent in nature.
And then there are handwritten signs held by hitchhikers and panhandlers on roadsides and street corners; urban messages in a do-it-yourself advertising genre.
Ones I've seen locally on fair weather days…
"Homeless – live in car."
"Can you spare $5 for gas?"
"Will work for food."
Coming by my interest quite honestly, as a youngster I observed with keen exasperation either from far corners or glancing back over my shoulder at how my parents communicated, or did not. In summation, if they weren't arguing, they weren't talking, leaving long periods of silence for me to fill in the blanks.
Mom went about her day-to-day business of running our household of eight with as few words as possible. I suppose this was to conserve energy for our brood of six children. Don't get me wrong – she most definitely had things to say. However, hers was a universal language we could easily translate.
Like her repeated pounding on the floor when she was trying to nap upstairs – a non-verbal and clearly understood command for our rowdy bunch below to "Keep it down!"
At any given time when one of us misbehaved, we resigned to the fact that all would undergo a shared punishment. Mother, chasing us around the house, wearing her customary exhaustive look turned fierce, became a speechless charging warrior, wielding her weapon of choice, a thick yardstick from the local hardware store. Not heeding her angry call to stand still for a good spanking, we ran with daring just out of her extended reach.
My siblings and I navigated through life securely relying on Mom's wordless vernacular, as we did Dad's.
For a good portion of my childhood, my father made his living on the road. That's why fresh avocados smothered with mayonnaise; juicy peaches and soft-served custard are among my comfort foods. After being away five days out of seven, Dad quite often brought these expressive goodies home, as if to say, "I love you but can't find the words…" or "I missed you and hope this will make up for my absence."
And then there's body language: Elbowing, shouldering, winking, nodding or even stonewalling. Abruptly leaving the room or turning back. Cheerlessly grimacing or sheepishly grinning. Rushing toward or jerking away. Lumbering along or pacing frenetically. Abruptly standing or quietly whispering.
All telegraph without a word where we've been, where we are, where we're headed and what we're feeling.
2012 © Copyright Paula Damon.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at firstname.lastname@example.org and find her on FaceBook.