You can’t tell it by listening to me now, but as a child I was a stutterer. I wonder if my family remembers? In fact, even now some vowel and consonant combinations can still occasionally hang me up if I get to talking too fast, or I’m exceptionally excited. Maybe it helps explain why writing more than speaking developed as my preferred form of communication. I still remember when it started, in Miss Grindel’s Grade 3 class. Each day we lined up at the door at home time and she would say good-bye to each student individually. One day all I could say was, “Um. Um, um, um, um,”almost as bad as listening to Caroline Kennedy. During those late elementary school years my father, a family doctor, often counseled slow speaking. “Slow down” is what he said. So by seventh and eighth grades, the terrible junior high school years, it had sufficiently subsided, or I had sufficiently controlled it that my classmates didn’t realize that I stuttered. By that time the Ritson twins - Henry and Richard - were in my class, and they both stuttered enough to take attention off me. One day when the homeroom teacher asked if there were any stutterers in our class I laid low, and attention fell to the two brothers. In his defense, I can say that the teacher wasn’t asking for malicious reasons. It was part of an exposition on human dignity after listening to a stuttering W.W.II veteran give a very public Remembrance Day speech at the town cenotaph. Maybe his stammer was a residual effect of wartime trauma.
My wife and children don’t know that I stuttered as a child. And there are a few other things my wife does not know about me. It’s not that I have secrets - which I do - so much as that, why bother her?
I didn’t stutter before Miss Grindel’s class, so why did I start stuttering in the Third Grade? Maybe Miss Grindel terrorized me and left me with traumatic psychological scars. (She was a strict old bird, a model spinsterish school ma’am in a blue print dress.) Or, maybe I didn’t get enough love from my father. Maybe my brothers bullied me too much. Or, maybe I had a bad self image. Maybe it’s all in the genes. Who cares?
I don’t particularly care.