|Over the weekend my mother and I put a puzzle together out in the common area of the memory unit where she lives. A couple of other women were sitting at a table right in back of us. As Mom and I chatted, I became aware of the long conversation happening behind us. One of the women was explaining something to the other in a very kind, patient voice. It was going on forever. Is she telling a story I wondered, because what on earth could take so long to explain? Then, during a lull in my conversation with Mom, I heard the woman say in such a calm, reasonable voice, “It’s hard to feed you if you don’t open your mouth.” I turned around and saw her holding a clementine segment up to a doll. It was disorienting because she sounded so rational and moving because it felt like I was seeing something profoundly her – her patience, her kindness, her logic – holding on and coming through.
Getting ready for work a few days later I was in a funk and didn’t know why. I had my day all mapped out. I was looking forward to stuff. There were no known crises to throw things off, but my mood didn’t match. As I pondered that confusion, I became aware of a voice in my head, a kind, reasonable voice speaking in a very familiar cadence saying, “It’s hard to help you if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.”
I know that voice, I thought in amazement. It’s the baby doll lady. How weird and wonderful to have this excellent role model for kindness and patience get in my head. How we talk to ourselves matters so much. And now that I think about it, Baby Doll is a pretty sweet term of endearment.