Saturday, December 20, 2014

The boy who said "Ba"

Until he was three, our son Stuart's vocabulary consisted of one word – “Ba,” short for “bottle.”

We spent thousands on speech therapists and specialists. All said there was nothing wrong and that, like Mr. Ed, he’d speak when he had something to say. But we worried ourselves sick nevertheless.

Shortly before Christmas, 1989, my wife, Judy, sat down and wrote the following story that turned out to be more than a worried mother's gift to her son who, I’m happy to report, grew up talking just fine. It's a gift for all children who are different and to the parents who love them. 

The boy who said “Ba”

There once was a boy who could only say “Ba,”
Much to the dismay of his mother and pa.
He said “Ba” for his supper and “Ba” for his blocks.
He said “Ba” for his spoon and his toothbrush and socks.
If he wanted his wagon or wanted his sled,
The single word “Ba” was he one word he said.

His parents were worried for they’d never heard
Of a vocabulary of only one word.
So they tried all solutions: They took him on trips.
They read him fine books, and they tickled his lips.
They fed him rich custards of ripe ba-na-na.
And he thought it all over, but still just said “Ba.”

They went to the doctor who shrugged as she said,
(After looking him over from toe up to head),
“Don’t worry, don’t scold him. He mustn’t be shushed.
He’ll speak when he’s ready, he cannot be rushed.
This isn’t an illness, no strange mania,
You just have a healthy young boy who says 'Ba.'"

But people would shake their heads, “My what a shame,
There’s the boy who says ‘Ba’ instead of his name.”
And mean kids would snicker, they’d giggle and ha
At the funny young boy who would only say “Ba.”
Which made the boy sad and he sometimes felt blue.
But a boy’s gotta do what a boy’s gotta do.
So all that he witnessed and all that he saw
He only expressed by the single word: "Ba."

And then one December, before Christmas Day,
The boy’s church put on a Nativity play.
Each child had a costume. Each child learned a part.
Each child had a message that came from the heart.
But the boy (yes, you guessed it) was cast as a sheep.
And because of his “problem” was told just to sleep.
“Until,” said the teacher, (who choked her guffaw),
“At the end of the play, Sheep, you have one line: 'Ba.'"

For days they all practiced each child’s special line.
And at last, they were perfect, with polish and shine.
But the boy who said “Ba” never practiced, it’s said.
(After all, why rehearse the one word in your head?)
And there, almost off-stage, beneath all the straw,
Crouched the sheep-costumed creature,
The boy who said “Ba.”

Well no one knows why, on Nativity Day,
But an air of disaster encircled the play.
The angel forgot what had once been foretold.
A wise man unwisely spilled out all his gold.
One shepherd got clumsy and tripped on his staff.
Another got nervous and started to laugh.
The doll in the manger fell out with a thud.
The cow stubbed his toe and it slowly drew blood.
Joseph’s eyes watered, he started to sneeze
Sending Mary’s veil flying, struck broad by the breeze.
The donkey got hiccups and started to hic,
And the innkeeper rushed from the stage, feeling sick,
Somehow catching his robe on the stable’s front door,
That made the whole structure crash down on the floor.
And there in the midst of this massive faux pas
Came a voice loud and clear – one sweet glorious “Ba.”

And slowly it swelled like a thunderous hurrah,
As the young boy stood stage-front and sang out his “Ba.”
And then, if by magic, the sweet “Ba”-ing grew.
It swelled from the rafters and shook every pew.
Each flickering flame on the candelabra
Felt the pulsating note of the little boy’s “Ba.”
And each person present remembers the chills
As the sound bounced through windows,
Across fields and hills.

It’s said they could hear it from Alaba-ma,
Way up to the snowbanks of Minneso-ta.
It jiggled the racecars in India-na.
And startled the lizards in Arizo-na.
It melted an iceberg up in Alas-ka.
And slivered the cornhusks out in Nebras-ka.
And down in the jungles of Argenti-na
To the uppermost province of north Cana-da,
(And even, it’s whispered, down in Austral-ia),
They could hear the faint echoes of one heartfelt “Ba.”

The young boy smiled broadly. Today was his day.
For the first time his “Ba” was the right thing to say.
And imagine the pleasure, just think of the awe,
For the one child who knew his lines:
He who said “Ba.”

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