Speechless

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am rarely, if ever ever, at a loss for words. I have been told that I have the gift of gab, a talent for talking, and a skill for schmoozing. In other words, I have a big mouth. Even professionally, as a speaker and television host, I depend on my ability to be articulate. So you can imagine the panic that ensues when once a year, as winter turns to spring and those darn Bradford pear trees start to bloom, I feel my allergies coming on and the very essence of my being starting to fade. No matter what I do or how hard I try to deny it or attempt to deter it, it inevitably happens. I lose my voice.

            This, in fact, happened just a few weeks ago, and as always, the timing couldn't have been worse. I started to feel hoarse over the weekend and then lost my voice completely by Monday morning. Since I was scheduled to emcee an event on Tuesday evening, I immediately went into laryngitis lock down - total voice rest and a super secret voice restoration diet. Our son asked, "What's in your secret diet, booze?" It was actually chicken soup laced with cayenne pepper, roasted garlic on pita chips, and tea with honey. Luckily, my husband was out of town since this particular remedy comes with some very smelly side effects.

            I cancelled all of my meetings for the day and responded to any phone calls with an automated text message that read, "I cannot return your call today. I have lost my voice and am on voice rest. Please enjoy this rare, unexpected holiday and talk to you soon. I hope."

            Since I work out of a home office, I can be fairly isolated when I want or need to be, so a day without talking to anyone was not such a big deal. However, when our boys came home from school that day, it was a different story.

            As soon as they walked in the door I heard them yelling for me. And while I would normally respond to their, "Moooooooom," with the usual, "Whaaaaaaat?" I couldn't respond at all. Instead, I just patiently sat in my office while I listened to a very sad and unrequited game of Marco Polo. "Mom!" No answer. "Mom!" No answer. "Mooooooooooom!" Still no answer. Eventually one of them found me in my office and asked, "Didn't you hear us calling you?" I just smiled and nodded. It was then that I realized how often we experience this call and response on a given day. And why so many of my friends had intercom systems in the 80's when you couldn't text someone to see where they were or tell them something without walking upstairs or all the way across the house. 

            When I was growing up I served as our family's official intercom system. My mom would ask me to call everyone to dinner every night and I would dutifully yell from the kitchen, "Come eeeeeeeeeat!" She would then say, "Well, I could have done that." To which I would promptly respond, "Then why'd you ask me to do it?"

            Through a series of hand gestures and written notes I eventually conveyed to our boys that I was on voice rest and couldn't talk. Ironically, the same boys who never seem to listen to a word I say couldn't stand the thought of my not saying a single word. For them it was unsettling. For me it was plain torture and the entire evening was an exercise in restraint and self-control as I was tempted to talk at every turn.

            Without my husband at home to co-communicate, I had to enlist our 15-year-old to help with voice preservation. He immediately became my voice Minion and took the job very seriously. He hounded his brothers to make sure they ate their dinners, cleared their dishes, and got their homework done. After I dropped my phone on the kitchen floor, he called the Apple store to find out what options I had to fix my shattered screen. (And yes, I was thankful that none of the boys could hear my silent tantrum after dropping it.) He even called his dad for me so I could hear about his day and wish him good night, at least by proxy.

            Within 24 hours I had most of my voice back, was able to emcee the event, resume life as normal, and give full credit to our son and my super secret voice restoration diet. Good thing I added the booze.