Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Word Nerd Is Born

Words have been a siren song to me ever since I was little. Learning to read with Dick and Jane, in Up the Hill and Down, opened up a whole new world for me. I was that weird kid who loved phonics, learning the diacritical marks, and breaking down words to make sense of their meaning. My doodles involved writing words in bubble letters. 

My parents passed on their writers' genes to me. They both have written poetry. My mom has even written songs. They both articulate themselves extremely well. While Dad was a great joke teller, Mom could never quite remember punch lines, but they were both good story tellers. 

When I was little, I loved listening to the stories Mama told us on the couch, in the bed, or in the tent during rainy days at Buggs Island. She entertained us with all of the traditional fairy tales, and my personal favorite, Little Black Sambo. I was fascinated with his scarlet jacket, and his emerald green trousers. Mama was good at descriptive detail. 

Each week, mom took us to the Amherst Public Library, where I could choose a stack of books to take home. She would point out what a good bargain the library was. Our library card was free, and afforded us nearly any book ever written. 

How I longed for my very own books from the Scholastic Book order at school, though. Mama would set the flimsy colored newsprint flyer aside, and remind me that the next time we went to the library, we could look for the books I wanted. "You'll only read them once, and then you'll wish you had your money instead of a book you'll never read again," she would say. Sigh.

One time she let me order a book of my very own. The book I selected was The Wednesday Witch. I'm not sure I chose very well, but how I loved that book. It brought a smile to my face to discover it in my classroom when I became an elementary teacher a couple of decades later. 

As young girl, I loved reading The Bobbsey Twins books, and anything about horses. Misty of Chincoteague and Billy and Blaze were some of my favorite characters.

The only board game I have ever really liked is Scrabble. Please don't ask me to play The Game of Life, and if you make the mistake of asking me to play Monopoly, I may forget my manners, and go into rant mode about why that is the worst game ever in the history of the world.

We have Mrs. Scibal to blame for my fancying myself as a poet. My sixth grade English teacher marched me in to the principal's office to read the poem I wrote about our pony, DAPPLES. Was it a poetic masterpiece? No, not even close, but her encouragement meant everything to me during that awkward time of my life. My confidence as a writer grew from that small spark of praise.

In seventh grade, I even liked copying our vocabulary words with the definitions, and using them in a sentence. Much to my teacher's dismay, I found a way to work a horse into every single sentence. I took it as my personal challenge to keep the equestrian theme going all year long.

I couldn't wait to take a foreign language, and the only one available in junior high was Latin, so I took it. Who studies Latin at the age of 13? Um, I did. I took two years of Latin from Mrs. Bragg, biding my time until I could take French from Mrs. Ligon. French was the language of love; no one told me how impractical it was. I was simply in love with the romance of the romantic language. I even minored in French in college. 

I will read anything. Cereal boxes, magazines, self-help, fiction, non-fiction, Readers' Digest; I even attempted William Shakespeare's plays, for the heck of it, in college. A man in Chicago O'Hare airport just shook his head at my response when he asked me if I were reading the book for an assignment, or just for fun. 

I love words. They are the gifts that I treasure; my happy box is filled with my favorite things: the handwritten notes from my children, special notes from school children, the poetry and customized cards from my husband. I save these treasures in my happy box to read on days when I want to recall sweet memories.

My own words are a gift to myself. In writing down the feelings of my heart, and the events of my life, I have an opportunity to re-live each moment when I read my writing later. Between my words and my photography, I can live in the now fully, and enjoy those moments again later, any time I want. Words make me happy.

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