birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Speech Therapy

I was six years old when I was diagnosed. I had a speech impediment. I needed therapy. I loved Mrs. Pruitte’s first class. I was an eager student, always trying to do my best. One of our continual assignments throughout the year was making posters of words with specific sounds to learn about phonics. I would spread out magazines on the dining room table to find pictures of the assigned letter of the week. If it was an “A” I would find photos of an apple, an airplane or any image that fit the bill. I would cut the pictures out with my bad school grade scissors and paste them with white school paste on a stiff sheet of oak tag. For me, this was a lot of fun. I enjoyed working my way through the alphabet, possibly having two letters in a week until the homework changed. We were given the “th” sound. I didn’t understand why we were doing the letter “T” again so I brought in pictures of trucks, trees, etc. Mrs. Pruitte was alarmed. It came to her attention that I didn’t say, “this” but “dis.” I didn’t say “the” but “de.” I was a “deese, dem, dozer” an expression about people from Brooklyn who didn’t speak properly. I needed speech therapy. Mrs. Quinn the speech therapist was an older woman with gray hair who walked with a limp. To me she was a kind patient, grandmother. She taught me how to put my tongue under my top teeth and breathe out the “th” sound. After three sessions, I was cured. I could say thistle and thimble without hesitation. The “d’s” were gone. My parents did not seem alarmed by this problem. Both of them had professional degrees beyond college. They were first generation Americans but in the harried household of four daughters in eight years proper enunciation as a priority fell by the wayside. As soon as I learned about my speech impediment, I relayed the information to my four-year sister, teaching her how Mrs. Quinn showed me how to pronounce these words properly. When I had a son, decades later, he had a speech problem, too. He couldn’t say the “st” sound. As I result of my childhood problem, I pounced on this immediately. I think extremely verbal children in their eagerness to speak let the need for proper pronunciation fall by the wayside.

My Father's Death

Not the Clown's Wedding