Talk talk

The best advice I got when my kid was born was to talk to him. “Just tell him what you’re doing if you can’t think of anything else to say,” a nurse told me.

Language is important for brain development, of course, but there’s something much more basic going on here. You’re bonding with your baby by talking. In the same way prayer, meditation, or talking aloud to your pets lowers blood pressure and reduces stress, talking to your kid fosters intimacy.

You lean into them and talk. You sing to them. You cradle them and tell stories.

And how do babies respond? They watch you and listen. They touch your mouth. They repeat your inflections. They laugh and croon to you.

When he was big enough to ride in a backpack, he’d hold my ears while we walked. Constant contact. Touch points. You. Here you are. Here I am.

This is how I interact with my dogs too. And the gerbils and the hedgehog. I sing to them. I tell them about my wacky day. I ask questions and wait, sometimes, as though there might be an answer. This is how we love. We reassure with our voices, with touch, with eye contact.

You know this already because you fell in love by talking. You couldn’t stop talking at first, could you? There was never enough time to tell everything. To share all the stories. Suddenly it was morning again, her voice raspy, and later you’d understand it always rasps when she’s tired, or on the edge of a cold. Later there’s enough history to predict the future. But for now, you love that rasp in a new and tender way.

Like the daily walk from school with the kid.

“Oh,” he says, “so now you’re too cool to hold my hand?”
“What? That’s not a thing. There’s no such thing as too cool to hold your hand. You were holding your bag and I thought –”
“I shifted my stuff so I could hold your hand,” he says, and reaches to you again.

I just stood there and felt that. I still do.

1 thought on “Talk talk”

  1. I was enticed by the Bywater post and explored from there. I will share this essay with a friend of mine, and continue to explore.
    Thank you, Stacy

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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