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15 6 In winter there are days when Mother stays in the house in the afternoons, knitting thick woolen socks. Somedays, Grandmother wraps herself in her heavy woolen shawl and goes around to Aunt Barbara’s side of the house.Willi and Klöss go tobogganing on the slopes opposite with the sled­ Father has made for them; Christina stays inside and sleeps on the bench. Maria kneels beside her and tucks her dress beneath her knees because the wooden floor is hard. She has four needles in her hand, but they seem to have a will of their own. Knitting is not so easy! Maria concentrates so hard the tip of her tongue pokes out between her lips. The thick, black, wool thread just will not pull through. But she refuses to let that make her angry, for she is much too good-natured. Mother has shown her so many times how to knit, stitch by stitch. All little girls in the village learn how to knit, and one day, if she practices ever so earnestly, she will be able to knit as fast as Grandmother or Mother. Grandmother even closes her eyes while knitting, as if she were asleep. Mother gets up and tosses some wood into the stove. She looks at­ Maria’s fingers, then she gives a kind nod, takes the knitting out of her hands and lays it aside. Maria looks up expectantly. Will Mother now point at the cupboard? she wonders. Yes! Maria scrambles quickly onto the arm of the bench, and from the top of the cupboard she takes down a small cardboard box that is kept out of reach of Klöss and Willi. When she stretches, she makes a gasping sound with the effort. Quickly, she kneels back down and takes a pencil and some folded sheets of paper out of the little box. Full of joy, Maria smooths out the paper. Mother turns her chair around so that Maria can look directly at her face and watch her mouth. The mouth movements of people are a great mystery to Maria. Neatly written on the paper are two words: Father and Mother. On previous winter days, Mother has already taught her how to write these. Now Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 15 4/26/2017 12:17:33 PM 16 Maria Wallisfurth Mother slowly moves her mouth, and the girl tries to form her lips just as Mother does. Over and over. And again. Then Mother writes the word Maria on the paper. Mother points to each letter in turn, and each time to her mouth.“Ma-i-a” says the child in a discordant voice which she herself cannot hear. Mother listens. Maria’s“i” is not a clean [i]. Mother points to each written letter and to her own mouth again. Maria understands the connection for the M, a’s, and i, but at the r she shakes her head. No, she cannot fathom what Mother means, no matter how often she tries to show her. The r remains beyond her grasp. “Ma-i-a,” the girl says. Mother looks pleased. But what is that “Ma-i-a”? Mother points to her, taps the child on the chest, and with her lips she forms the word again slowly and clearly. “Maria.” The child thinks for a while, points her finger inward, and looks down at herself. That which she can see when she looks at herself, is that “Ma-i-a”? Suddenly her face lights up. Excitedly, she thumps on her chest with her extended finger, forms with her mouth, presses in her throat, and says harshly and too loudly the word“Ma-i-a.” She has grasped her name. Maria excitedly hands her mother the pencil and watches closely how Mother writes the word. Maria tries to write it herself. With much perseverance it gradually gets better. How strange that the marks on the paper mean so much.The word Mother starts with the same letter as Maria.And for both words one has to form the mouth into the same shape, pressing the lips together. Maria senses everything she sees has a name she can write down and call with her mouth—“Fath-eh,”“Moth-eh,”“Ma-i-a.” Maria’s mother takes a deep breath. Her child can speak even if it sounds loud, shrill, and coarse in the room. The sounds are uncommon. Who will ever be able to understand them? Mother wonders. She...

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