listening to the voice inside her chest

I spend a lot of time talking on the phone as a reporter. I talk on the phone to strangers, I listen to other people talk on the phone. And I’ve realized that I really like it.There’s something comforting to me about having the receiver next to my ear or the one-sided exchange I overhear.

This is the beginnings of a piece where I explore the beginning of this love. It all starts with my mom.


My mother talks a lot.

My sister and I used to laugh about her conversational habit of bringing up a new topic right as you an organically round a stopping point. We’d be putting on our coats, saying goodbye to her, wrapping our hand around the front doorknob and —

“Did I tell you that Mary was diagnosed with cancer?”

“What? Mary who?”

“You know, Mary Houston.” (the neighbor)

“Oh. That’s too bad… Well, we have to go. We told them we’d be there at 7…”

“Yeah, she apparently went in for a checkup and wound up with a diagnosis.”

We open the door now. Obviously showing our intent to leave. We crack the screen door thinking the cold air rushing into the house will be enough of a hint.

“Oh, and your grandmother is visiting in two weeks.”

“Great mom.” Now we just go. We leave the house and tell her we’ll talk about it when we get back. Then moments later as we’re driving to the restaurant, and inevitable text:

can u picK up a box of kleenx on your way home .? 1 Love,mom

“Why wasn’t that what she told us as we were leaving!” my sister would say, laughing.

She does the same thing on the phone. I remember as a child my dad would always tell me not to interrupt her when she was on the phone. She’d be in the living room sitting on the couch for what seemed like hours. I’d wait–anxious to be around her–and eavesdrop on her half of the conversation with my grandpa or her friend or someone from work.

Eventually I’d creep into the room and sit near her. I’d try to mime to her “WHO IS IT??” and she would give me an annoyed look and gently swipe her hand through the air. So then I’d sit closer to her and try to hear the voice through the receiver.

That’s definitely a woman. 

They’re talking about Mardi Gras. 

Maybe it’s Pat?

Oh she’s talking about Mark. It’s definitely Pat. 

The conversation would go on and on and on and on. Or it seemed that way at 7 years old. So eventually I’d get bored and lay my head in her lap. I’d listen to the sound of her voice, feel the gentle shake of her laugh. I’d look into her mouth and watch her teeth, watch the metal fillings glint as she opened her mouth to yawn.

It felt like it did when I was even younger and would lay next to her in her bed as she’d read my sister and I a story at night. My parent’s bed is the warmest cavern on earth. They have a feather comforter and a water bed. Yes, that’s right, a water bed. We’d would wiggle on one side and feel the waves on the other. We’d tumble and jump and giggle and pounce and travel beneath the covers all the way around to the other side. Then we’d lay, my sister on my dad’s side of the bed, my mom in the middle and me next to my mother’s nightstand and she’d read to us. I would rest my head on her bosom and listen not only to the story she was reading, but the sound of her breath, her heartbeat, her voice inside her chest.


to be continued….