Photo by Sean

Photo by Sean

Dear Words,

Sam is learning to read.

It’s taken a while for him to get interested.  But last night he got a birthday party thank you note in the mail from his friend Adam and read every word himself.

Today was my day to open applesauce during lunch at Kindergarten while Mrs. Hauck and Mrs. Toohey took a break. When I arrived, Mrs. Hauck was teaching writing.  The children sat at their tables, clutching their fat pencils, tongues sticking out of the corners of their mouths as they made their letters.

I hardly remember those days, when every word was a puzzle, a tiny box, sealed up tight, with a surprise inside. If only I could get it open.

I do remember the second grade. We were reading aloud in class. It was a book about horses (something of a specialty of mine).  It was my turn. My teacher said, “Oh, Ann, you’ll have trouble with this one.”  The passage was about a horse on a longe line. I read it. My teacher was surprised I knew the word “longe.” I can still taste the pride of knowing a word I wasn’t expected to know.

I used to teach English to a Chinese woman in my neighborhood. If your ear hurts, we call it an earache. If your head hurts, we call it a headache.  If your arm hurts, it’s not an arm ache. We just say your arm hurts.

In my head, Mrs. Hauck says, “Goofy English.”

Words, I love you.  I love how you keep me up at night. I love how, if I follow a few simple rules, I can assemble you in ways that are surprising, funny, and sometimes even breathtaking.  I can use you to help someone understand how to market her business, but I can also use you to make my mother cry, or make my husband laugh so hard his head turns red and we worry he’s stopped breathing.

Thanks words, for being good to me. And for giving your gifts to Sam too.