Language Acquisition: Why Pidgins Cry

Diane Popenhagen | Language Acquisition Why Pidgins Cry | Raising Mothers
Seats, in a row like ducklings. Children, all three, have acquired a taste for mother’s regurgitated lyrics and acoustic melodies. Excitement sparks like lightning, beautiful and dangerous, to see what momma saw, to hear with grown-up ears. Two months is a long time to wait, but anticipation too is an event to be savored.

Only girls born for seven years, then a mallard creeps into the nest. The mother nurses him like all the others. She does not see an “other,” but rather a “same.” His brown eyes searching her laugh lines, seesnot ovaries nor breasts, but “mine.” Mother is not woman, and son is not boy. Those are the words from strangers’ tongues, an unfamiliar vernacular of separate and apart.

At first the foreign words only whisper into the boy’s ears while he plays. They mumble secrets of an imminent severing, an inevitable away. Once a pidgin gave birth to a creole. The creole left home to rear a language of separation, naturally. Crawling into the night time windows, black, while mother and son lay rapt, melted, melded; it sings the song of man and of woman with its discordant din, while the mother sleeps dreaming of amputations.

“We are going to see the Indigo Girls,” boy child says to the father. Father smiles and wishes the boy luck in the presence of only women. The language of apartness is, at once, writ large and indelibly, as the young boy’s face contorts into one the mother doesn’t recognize.

Mother and son have never discussed the need for a different vernacular. But somehow they both know to fear the learning curve, the stray marks of difference. But mothers and sons are seldom given a choice. This language is thrust upon them when they least expect it. And now, unintelligible word stumble from the boy’s lips, shadowed by mustache fledgling.

“Am I supposed to like Indigo Girls?” boy asks mother in the dark car, both looking ahead rather than at each other. Should she explain inherited sexism, congenital? Would it translate into “don’t leave me?”Men the father’s age didn’t listen to women’s voices, learning their own language earlier in those days.

No, she will simply assure him that music is universal. Perhaps the only universal left them.

Slicing the silence that follows, the boy’s voice cracks into the cold car. “Why am I crying, Mom?”

“Because we’re losing, son. Because we’re losing.”


Diane Popenhagen has authored humor columns in magazines and newspapers, as well as acted as editor for a publishing company. Ms. Popenhagen is finishing her MFA at Lindenwood University and enjoys hiking in the Rockies with her family. Her work has appeared in Dirty Chai, Soundings Review, Foliate Oak Literary Journal, among others.

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