By Bob Ciminel
August 13, 2006
What brought this up was my recent trip to the Watts Bar nuclear plant located on the Tennessee River between Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee. I was only there for four days, but it was refreshing to leave Atlanta's traffic and not have to board a plane. This was a true road trip; it's only 160 miles from my office to the plant. I pulled out of the Avis parking lot at 8:30 and pulled into my hotel driveway at 11; it was Interstate 75 all the way.
Driving back and forth to the plant each day gave me an opportunity to refresh my memory of the Tennessee Valley and its beauty. Nestled between the Great Smokey Mountains on the east and the Cumberland Escarpment on the west, the valley is approximately 30 miles wide, with undulating ridges - the rumpled carpet remaining after the geologic upheaval that created the Appalachian Mountains shoved the southeastern coast of proto-America westward.
I was reminded of how much we enjoyed the five years we spent living on a ridge northwest of Chattanooga. My daily drive to and from work along the top of the ridge provided breathtaking views of White Oak Mountain to the east and the Escarpment to the west, particularly on those crisp Fall mornings when the hardwoods turned into a painter's pallet of colors, and God seemed very close. To say it was a religious experience is an understatement.
We moved to Chattanooga when my son was 14 months old. He learned to walk there, but when he reached the age when most children begin to talk we noticed a problem. My son spoke, but what came out was gibberish. He spoke in complete sentences, with appropriate emphasis for exclamation points or question marks, but it was still gibberish. This went on for almost two years. My daughter, who was talking in complete sentences and carrying on conversations with adults at 12 months, understood what my son was saying, but we were completely lost.
We were worried that our son might have some sort of mental problem, so we went to see a child psychiatrist, the same one we were taking our daughter to because she became very rebellious. The psychiatrist tested them both. There was nothing wrong with either child. My daughter was merely acting like a queen, and we weren't being subservient enough for her. No problem; we just imprisoned in the tower (her bedroom) whenever she became uncooperative.
Our son, though, had a different problem. His brain was forming words faster than his tongue could say them. It's a lot like learning golf and tennis; your brain knows exactly how to make a perfect swing, but your muscles don't have the training to do it. Eventually, my son's motor skills would catch up with his brain, and he would speak English, or whatever language my wife was going to teach him - toddlers are quite adept at learning foreign languages, and I expected him to start spouting French or German any day.
I came up with an idea to help
defray some of the medical expenses we incurred in having the
children tested and analyzed. I figured as long as my son was
speaking gibberish, I could take him to the evangelical churches
in our area, sit him in the pew, and at a quiet time in the service,
start whispering questions to him. Everybody knows it is impossible
for children to speak quietly in church. My son would begin speaking
his gibberish and I would stand up and shout, "Lord God
Almighty! My boy is speaking in tongues! Thank you, Jesus! Thank
you, Jesus!" That would probably be worth $20 or $30 when
they passed the collection plate. I figured I could hit six or
seven churches before the word got out. Unfortunately, my wife
nixed the idea at the get-go, but, what the heck; it was worth
taking a shot at.
He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference. Bob lives in Roswell, Georgia, and works for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations. He is also a conductor on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.
Contact Bob at email@example.com