Today I am starting with a photo from the past from a summer day a few years ago. It’s a memory of a beautiful day playing at Coney Island, NY. In the photo are fellow-stutterers, Barry Yeoman and Nora O’Connor, and friends & family members that are non-stutterers. It’s a sweet photo for me as it shows my life today filled with stutterers and non-stutterers hanging out together.
Many years ago I attended my first conference of the National Stuttering Association (then referred to as National Stuttering Project) in San Francisco. There I met fellow stutterers Barry Yeoman and Nora O’Connor. I was so scared when I entered the conference! I had no friends that stuttered and I had only recently started attending meetings at the DC Chapter of the NSP. Attending the DC Chapter was scary enough; the convention was overwhelming. . From not knowing any stutterers to being immersed in a group of over 500 stutterers, well I cried for three days.
The second photo is of an intersection in Washington, DC. I had just attended a day of the National Stuttering Association Convention in Washington, DC on July 4, 2014. My sister, Rebecca, and nieces and nephew joined me at the hotel. We walked down to the mall to watch the fireworks, just like we did when we were kids. I was crossing the street to go on the mall to watch the fireworks. It was just as the sun was setting. Along the walk I stopped and took a photo around 9th Street, NW and Constitution Avenue. It’s a long view of the streets looking towards the Capital.
I was born and raised in Washington, DC. The Washington Mall was the only “mall” I knew and where I spent many summers hanging out at the festivals. My father worked on 7th street near F Street, not so far from the location for the 2014 National Stuttering Association Conference. When I was in grade school I would go downtown to the mall and meet my Dad at his work to go home together.
When I was twelve years old I had dropped into one of the museums on the Mall on a long summer day. I didn’t (and still don’t) wear watches. I needed to check the time so that I would make sure to get the store where my Dad worked. I didn’t want to be late. So there I was walking along Pennsylvania Avenue, along the Mall, next to the Smithsonian museums waiting for the courage to approach a random stranger to ask what time it was. I couldn’t do it. I was so struck with fear, anxiety, and shame at my stuttering that I couldn’t ask what time it was. Along that walk I looked up and saw the Capitol and the magnificent buildings of power feeling very small and helpless.
This photo cross the same street on July 4th was my nod the past and joy at the present.
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