June 6, 2009

why i love words...or what happened on the way to the playground

1:: i didn’t always like reading. i had difficulty learning to read because i was so shy. if asked to read aloud in my reading group, i would stammer and stumble across words. as children laughed and pointed I would retreat further in my shell. i had difficulty spelling because of performance anxiety and those stupid friday spelling tests. if relaxed at home, i could spell all day long but under test conditions i would fold. finally my mom bought a scrabble game in desperation do i could learn to spell under pressure conditions. her trick worked. she never eased up on me and it was always my goal to finally beat her. that didn’t happen until high school.

2:: i was sick a lot as a child. always with strep throat or some other sickness and stayed in bed a lot during winter. as a treat my father would bring home treats to cheer me up. he loved comic books and started me off on the donald Duck or the like until i built up to archie or the marvel comics he adored. later, he would bring me nancy drew, donna parker or hardy boys. i would curl up with those books along with the orange sherbet and ginger ale concoctions they would make me to soothe my throat. i still devour books in bed and this is one of my favorite comfort things to do.

3:: my competitive streak finally kicked in about fourth grade when i discovered i got along better if i didn’t duck and shy away. i would show the other kids i was a good reader too. i had a wonderful teacher that year who let us build construction paper chains by the number of books we read. i was focused on having the longest chain in the class. we could also get extra points by bringing food that represented our books or some other “project”. it was a way to lose ourselves in books. i lived to be Jo March during those days. well, jo or madam curie. But i didn’t like that whole dying thing about curie but i did love that she discovered something so amazing.

4:: reading bailed me out of a lot of tests and homework. i have a pretty good memory and i rarely studied for tests. instead i would read all of the material the night before the test and do good enough to pass. this worked until i went to college and found out the the system up was mucked up and more difficult than memorization. i actually had to learn to study and that sucked.

5:: reading and words transported me away from some very bad times. i grew up in a household with a terminally ill child, an largely absent father (he worked from dawn to dusk) and a mother too distracted by a sick child and other children. i could go to my room, get a book and put on my headphones and be anywhere else in the world. i actually learned more about sex from books than from my mother. her version of the birds and bees was basically, “you will bleed, men expect sex, you will get pregnant”. yeah. one day, walking with some friends we found a old tattered copy of “sweet savage love” by rosemary rogers (yes, i remember the title to this day). we were 12 and it was hot. it described sex in romantic, tawdry, sexual, dirty, steamy ways. we sat in our hideout and read passages. we underlined and passed the book around. we giggled and snickered. it was great until my mom found the book and threw it away after lecturing me about how disgusting it was. (funny after finding her stash of 'true confessions' under her bed.)

6:: my grandmother lived in philly and we didn’t get to see her but once or twice a year. she believed in mailing magazine subscriptions and then i got the youth version of reader’s digest condensed books. it wasn’t until a few years later i realized how condensed the books really were and enjoyed getting to read the full version.

7:: i learned that words earned a person respect. that if you spoke well and could articulate your thoughts, people listened. i felt i was mostly invisible in grade school, so this was a powerful new tool. i revealed in it. i love debate and discussion. i love taking the devil’s advocate position. i could stay up all night discussing issues and listening to all of the sides.

8:: i daydreamed about writing the “great american novel” when i was in high school but never could formulate the words. part of me still dreams of it…but i can’t find my voice. in the mean time, i enjoy reading people that can write. just like a painting, song or dance - there are masters of the word craft. i sit at their feet and marvel. they have comic voices, passionate voices, heartfelt and true voices. the turn of a phrase - the alliteration - the analogy. i sit stunned and seduced by words. i think that’s part of why I also love music. combine the power of words with the beat of a drum and i fall.

9:: i started blogging as a way to work through some painful episodes. bad break-ups, past ghosts, stupid things. i wrote, posted and deleted many things. then one day, i explored and found other blogs. there were other people that wrote about feelings, failures, funny times, sad times…it was all out there. i responded on a couple of blogs and people started visiting my blogs. i felt welcomed. the circle grew and every day i get introduced to more and more people. this is the power of words. words give you the ability to connect millions of people.

10:: finally, words are comfort and warmth during a chilling of your soul. they give your heart wings when its too full to remain grounded. words give voice to your grief when your heart is broken and shattered on the floor. words are everything. they give distance when you’re shy and need your space. they open the door to new friends. they seduce. they make love to your eyes, ears and heart. they educate you. they empower you. they are.


  1. I guess that as you visit my blog, I don't need to tell you what a big fan of the written word I am!

    I am an infamous reader in bed, and still have my own fond memories of reading all the nancy drews and hardy boys in my local library as a very small kid.

  2. Beautiful homage to words here, they have amazing abilities, don't they? I love too the way the blog words connect to so many people, creating wonderful communities.

    I was a comic book reader too when I was growing up. Did you know that just recently, Archie proposed to Veronica in one of the latest issues?

  3. i saw that...i never really liked veronica, but guys never see it the way we girls do. maybe betty crossed over to the friend zone.

  4. I adore words and learned early that people who speak properly and had grace articulating their thoughts were more respected. When I read a letter from someone who can't spell or has atrocious grammar, I cringe. And I secretly thank my parents for sending me to the schools they did.
    Beautiful post, Char!

  5. Bonjour ! First time i come across your blog so i'm gonna visit it now :)
    Well if you wanna be inspired by my collages or just dream, come and visit my blog :)
    a bientot!

  6. I enjoyed this. It makes me think of how I got started on words. :)

  7. oh girl...we have lots in common and if you want, i'll make room in my garden for your words, too !

    the best line..."words make love to your eyes, ears and heart"...OMG, that is so perfect !

  8. i love this post. i've come back to read it 3-4 times now and have thus far been unable to find the words for a proper comment (yet here i am, commenting).

    just keep sharing your words please.


  9. This post touches me in so many ways. I'm like Julochka in that. Struggling to find words fitting for such a post.

    I think you know me well enough to know by now that words are my passion. My enduring love affair. You've made me think about so many things about teaching. One of the best is that I have a chance to pass along my passion for words. For story.

    Words are vital. Most of us think in words, we share in words, we convince and persuade and comfort. In words.

  10. This is a wonderful post. I too am a logophile. Words, definitions, verbal undercurrents, beautifully constructed sentences...these are a few of my favorite things.

    I recently listened to Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union. This man can write! My only regret was that I didn't have a copy of the book so that I could go back and reread my favorite sentences over and over.

  11. Writing has always been cathartic for me. Whenever I had some emotional turmoil or problem, I always worked it out by writing, reading it, rewriting it until I had my answer. No one has ever read my writing until this year when I started blogging. It is scary, but oddly exilarating to have someone else read your thoughts.

    Beautiful post.

  12. WORDS are POWERFUL... without them we would be silent!

  13. i enjoyed your words
    writing is difficult for me
    but reading is an escape
    takes you to such wonderful places

  14. i loved this post. i had just been outdoors reading a book and was thinking about how much i look forward to escaping in the words of others - words taking my breath away with beauty. words are so powerful - in an instance they can take us places we could not go before.

  15. Jo March and are still have a connection:). And the Nancy Drew books are still favorites. I was so disappointed when my daughter didn't take to them. Words are wonderful, and your narrative hits the nail on the head. My fond memories go back to hiding under the covers with a flashlight so I could read "just a bit longer." Having the flashlight taken away moved me to lengthy trips to the bathroom - Dad never quite got up enough nerve to ask what I was doing in there:). I had to read - to escape, to create new worlds, to visit far away places, and to have friends and the "perfect" family. Thank you for this lovely post.

  16. I love this post! You are such an amazing writer, Char and have a gift for the way you put words together to describe someting so perfectly it's as if I can see it too! I am off to do some reading in bed right now!

  17. The first time I left a comment on your blog was in regards to your writing voice. It is unique. You can often teeter into sadness without being depressing and trollop into joy without being trite. That's a magic trick few can muster let alone pull off.
    That being said, my love for words stemmed from childhood illness/shyness, too. I was hospitalized too many times to count as a child and now share that fondness for reading in bed that Twain loved, too. It's a habit that's always made me feel safe and cozy. I actually can't read anywhere else but in bed!
    With that, I hope your weekend is fairing well and I really enjoyed these little vignettes into your past. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Char,
    I think you have found your voice -- and we are listening. : )

  19. I savoured every word of this post...as someone who loves words, loves to read and loves to communicate your thoughts resonated deeply with me. May you continue to write and communicate and to love the words that have been written by others!

  20. what a revealing, honest post. be well.

  21. How very true. I also adore words and the written word, and cannot get enough of books, magazines, blogs, etc...I was also very shy in school (still am shy now sometimes), but I excelled in spelling and reading. I hated being called on like you, but thankfully it was rare. I do remember getting to the finals in the junior high spelling bee, and I was so terrified of moving further on and being on stage that I purposely misspelled my last word, hydrant, as hydriant. I had to actually think how to misspell it because spelling comes naturally to me, and I was saved, but now I wonder if I should have been braver.

    Anyhow, great post, and lots to think about.

  22. I'm one of those crazy underliners, starring the really "special" passages in books so I can find them quickly some morning in winter when I wake remembering that passage I can almost (but really not at all) remember by heart. I'll spend the morning if I have to, retrieving the passage from the top shelf of the hallway bookcase, or the bottom of the latest pile by my desk... Then I'll hold these words in my hands like treasure, or send them in a letter to a friend...

    Anyways, all that to say I wish I could do that with this blog post... Double underline and star the margins... so that morning in winter, when I think back, remembering, I'd be able to find it once again.


i feel as if each comment was between us as we sat and sipped something warm....i love to hear what you're thinking.