by Mary Ricketson

Reading Reaching Out is always a perk-up for me. I pick up the mail. It’s an ordinary after work time, and there is my newsletter. Even if I’m already in a good mood, something gets better. It’s the connection and the positive attitude. I never liked those Pollyanna types that seemed to want me to actually be glad I stutter. That’s not what I mean. The positive attitude in FRIENDS is the perspective, the up-front, no embarrassment, seriously respectful and outright humorous vibration.

Chicago’s convention put me in a great mood in spite of stirring reflections of my 50 years of stuttering. My tears sometimes surprised me, but laughter outweighed it all. I was intrigued and actually in awe of the happy go-lucky time the teens seemed to be having in this place where the common bond was stuttering. I wanted to know more about it but couldn’t get up close and personal enough to get more than a glimpse. Finally, in a rare moment, months afterward, my l5-year-old son Lee granted me an interview.

“The only problem with the convention is that it was not long enough,” Lee began. If I had not eventually played the ‘heavy’ and said we really have to go now, he and I might still be standing in the lobby of that hotel. It really was hard to part from all those dear people.

“At Friends, the people are nicer than the vast majority of other people.” He explained the convention was a “positive experience with the world.”

“I felt like just a person, not someone who stutters. It was as if the convention had nothing to do with stuttering.” Lee said his final deduction was that “going to where lots of people stutter made stuttering a non-issue.”

This thing that made me want to dig a hole and crawl in it when I was an adolescent, is the very thing that draws these kids together. Stuttering without shame! Now, that’s what I want to keep seeing.

This article from Reaching Out December, 2001

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