by Shirley A. Moll
I bolted up in the middle of a peaceful night, waking our household with a ‘blood-curdling’ scream, as Mom called it. I remember that God-awful terrifying feeling; the sweating and trembling. Dad was there and the fear faded away as he held me until I sobbed myself back to sleep. My daddy was stronger than Superman and wiser than God. “Shhhh. Shhhhh. Nothing can hurt you. Daddy’s here.” Cradled in his arms, I knew I was safe.
There was no explanation back then. Today it’s tagged as ‘sleep terror’, a condition in children brought about by stress and sleep deprivation.
Regardless, the words of my daddy magically drove the demons away from the sleep of a skinny, pale, and undersized daughter who couldn’t conquer the ‘demons’ on her own. Daddy’s patience and compassion were tireless through the next three to four years when I finally outgrew it.
I wasn’t afraid of much else. During the day, I had no other ‘normal’ fears. I was bratty and defiant, insolent and sassy. I was a smart-alecky tom-boy-like teen with a formidable spirit and often performed reckless stunts just to prove I had no fear. At age 15, sitting next to my boyfriend in his ’59 Ford, I put my foot over his on the gas pedal and punched it to the floor just to see if the speedometer needle would really go all the way over. I used the high-dives, sledded down the ‘suicide’ slopes, and held my hand over a lighted candle the longest. I know. It was more stupidity than fearlessness.
My relationships with boys (boyfriends) were never serious. I liked going to drive-in root beer stands, drive-throughs, hangouts, listening to music, roller skating, and county fairs. Amazingly I was still naive. I began to ‘mellow out’ sometime during age 15. My taste in fashion became more feminine. I picked up a little weight in places and got some color in my skin. It mattered to me how sweaters and blouses matched my socks and skirts. (In my high school days, girls were still prohibited from wearing slacks or nylons to school. Panty hose had not yet been invented and only certain types of girls wore garter belts and nylons.) I was conscious of the fact that boys were looking at me. I wondered what they were saying about me and I didn’t trust them.
At 17 I still had to have Dad’s permission to go out on a date. The ‘caller’ had to pick me up at the front door, come in, and meet my father. It amazed me how nice and polite a young man could be in front of Dad and be so different in the car. I liked kissing alright, but I had no intentions of being pressured into anything else.
It takes a person with a certain look, voice, demeanor, habit, or ‘way’ that makes another person trust them. It was inevitable. Eventually I met the young man with whom I had no fear. When we kissed, I didn’t feel pressure but a mutual and reciprocal desire to advance beyond a kiss. Though I had heard the words before, the same words were consoling and tender and magic when he spoke them. “It’s okay. Don’t worry. Everything is alright.”
We were both 19 when we married. Four days after my 21st birthday, he was pacing back and forth in the waiting room and I was in ‘labor and delivery.’ After 20 hours, I was exhausted and discouraged and, I admit, afraid. The woman in the bed on the other side of the curtain screamed her lungs out and I started to cry. They let my mother come in to see me. “Mom, why did you do this six times? I can’t. Isn’t there another way?” I knew she was trying to be compassionate but she stifled a smile. “Shirley, it’s alright. I know how you feel but I can’t help you. It’s almost over and you’ll do fine.” She held my hand for a moment as I clenched my teeth and the pain passed. I believed her and I stopped crying. Her words worked like magic.
I did fine, just like Mom said, and Joey weighed in at 8lbs 12 ounces. My husband and I had three daughters after that.
The years flew by. I found myself as a single parent of four teenagers. Oh, what poetic justice! I had a teenage daughter who feared nothing. I was constantly visiting the principal, taking privileges away from her, and lecturing her on the ways of life, to no avail it seemed. Nothing exposed her frailty like a broken heart. She sobbed bitterly and it broke my heart too. I hugged her. “Karen, everything will be alright. I know it. Talk to me every day and it will be alright.”
“How, Mom? Are you sure? How?” She wiped her eyes and she believed me, maybe.
My words worked the same magic that my mother’s did. We talked every day and eventually with the passing of time, Karen healed. She believed my ordinary words. I’m sure God put the magic there. A mother is divinely empowered when she sees her babies hurt.
There are countless other times when I’ve seen transformation. I was the deliverer and I was the recipient. I’ve seen it work between others. It’s mysterious to witness the peace unfold in a person’s soul and a terrible burden is lifted.
Now I know the truth. There is no magic in the language at all. The very same words could be spoken by someone else and would fall void on the ears of the listener and have no effect. They may even produce an ill and betraying effect. The magic doesn’t come from the words. It's in an aura between two people. It’s an invisible vapor that surrounds two people and envelops them in trust. It’s an unexplainable atmosphere that captivates the moment. The aura takes both people and connects their minds and hearts. It transfers the sincerity from the speaker to the hearer and sooths her. There’s no other explanation. That’s the real magic. The aura can’t be tapped into by just anyone. In order to get it, a person must be cultivated and sowed. They must become a soft ground for seeding and nurturing, vulnerable and susceptible, and become strong through adversity.
It was there when Dad comforted me, when I fell in love, when I had my son, and when my daughter needed assurance that everything would be alright. It’s ever-present. No one can take the aura by pretense. It’s impossible. You see; magic words are God-given after all.
Shirley Moll writes: "I live in the 'Shallow South' in Maryland with my husband and our blended family (8 adult kids and 19 grandchildren). My son and his clan live in Tennessee where the air of the 'Middle South' is so inviting -- I love to visit. By day I'm a Human Resources Director; nights and weekends, I enjoy quilting. I currently have about 18 quilts started and undone -- the sign of a true artist. I also enjoy gardening, fishing, dancing and baseball. This year I'm a volunteer biology instructor on an oyster boat (skipjack Martha Lewis) in the Chesapeake Bay. We're conservative Southern Baptists who love cookouts and hangin' out and laughing. Life is good."
Read another of Shirley's stories at USADS: Alabama Shower
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