“Use your words.”
Thoughts struggle for translation, hover just out of reach, waiting, waiting for realization—a musical note balanced on the horizon, ready to take flight.
The gentle nudge, a summer’s breeze.
“Use your words.”
Growing and shifting, they may have stumbled, leaves tumbling from trees, but the words came. They always did, each time my mother or father encouraged me as a young child to find them, to gather them and release them tenderly from my grasp.
Language flutters against the kitchen curtains, flows from room to room, glowing on the walls and dancing delicately in the air, settling into the shelves between books like golden dust. I remember kneeling before my shelf at age four, running my hand across the spines of my picture books, letting my fingers rise and fall as they travelled from story to story like boats upon the surf. With five of my favorites cradled in my arms, I scampered down the hallway to find my mother, bangs in my eyes, feet pattering against the wood floor, each step augmenting my excitement, widening my smile a little further. As I settled down beside her, nestled into her arm, my mother opened one of the covers. The gentle rustle of pages, the musty presence of words—favorite winter coats to snuggle into once again. Silence: brief and sweet like a drop of honey. And then she began to read, her voice, the words, embracing me.
English: a subtle song that wove through my life, a simple melody, until the day a base line emerged. School. Now a fine science, a code that had to be broken gradually and patiently, I approached English like an explorer advancing into unknown territory, curiosity and slight trepidation faithful companions, forever at my side. I was perched on the edge of a chair in my fourth grade classroom, hunched over a standardized spelling test. Was it tiring or tireing? Alphabet or alfabet? My pencil hung limply over rows—endless rows—of bubbles, lost at sea. Letters sat in complex patterns, an infinitely interlocking series of gears, mysterious and secretive. I vowed to keep language under close inspection, to observe its intricacies and learn to harmonize with it. A new realm, I believed, a world of endless possibilities, awaited, if I could only find the key.
My pencil eventually found its way through the thicket of words, transformed into the key that allowed me to unlock the door to the world of writing. I wrote my first story in a red, spiral-bound notebook, abandoning the technicalities of spelling, the rules of grammar. The faint blue ink lines stretched from page to page, beckoning, urging me to fill them. It accompanied me to school, on car rides, as I took pure joy in giving my imagination free reign over the pages, where characters came to life, where anything could happen. Each word was a seed, and I was determined to grow a garden.
At home, words envelop me in love, tuck me in each night before bed, greet me in the morning, welcome me home from school every afternoon. I speak with my parents rapidly, confidently, the words tripping off my tongue, skipping and tossing to the ever dancing rhythm of our family language: my mom’s phrases, direct but legato, that forever sparkle with creativity and insight, and my dad’s carefully articulated sentences, long and methodical, often tinted with a subtle amusement—a few staccato notes that shimmer off the waves of sound.
Comprehension of the power and beauty of language, the subtle, mysterious way it can make the most ordinary sentence extraordinary, has been gradual, easing its way in and out of my consciousness like a slowly rising tide. Each day the water clears slightly, reveals language to me in the form of an artist’s palette that holds a variety of shades, of colors, of tones, gradients and values. Language is the melody of my life, the thread that connects year to year, sewing together the tapestry of my identity.