My journey with words

I’ve spent my life with words.  Not just studying, but playing with, analyzing, thinking about and admiring them.  Teaching English, therefore, is a joy.  I get to immerse myself in words and there’s a never-ending supply of them!  They jump out at me, lean against me and whisper to me most often when I’m with my students and they catch my gasp as I touch a word in awe or delight.   An odd profession for someone who didn’t grow up around books, I realize.

To the surprise of my students, I tell them that I represent a paradox: my childhood home contained only the Bible and coloring books.  Sure, my mom invested in encyclopedias once, but the rest of the family looked at them suspiciously, at best.  I wanted to read them cover to cover, but the unspoken question was always, why?    So I read privately.  I rode my bike to the public library and sat among the books –  content to just be among them. Of course I browsed and read, too, but I also somehow knew that I was on to something.

Elementary school meant reading through all the stories in color-coded boxes.  I knew that I was a good reader because of the box’s color and the speed with which I progressed, but what I really cared about was reading more.  In junior high, I remember reading “The Monkey’s Paw” and the teacher unlocked a few secrets: there was order and reason to the author’s craft.  Layers existed that I could see and it was so exciting!  Then…the  high school.  It boasted a larger library and I spent many hours there crook-necked as I scanned the spines. Just reading, putting titles and authors together.
It was in 10th grade that I realized that I had a knack for this.  My teacher took notice of my affinity and encouraged me.  By twelfth grade, I was in love.  I had always known I’d attend college, but now I had a purpose: I would learn more about books and writing and if I was lucky, could spend many years among these friends.    And I have…but what I didn’t know at the time was that my students would become my friends, too.  It’s not that I don’t have healthy peer relationships – I do, but with my students I can get giddy about a story or hug a book (yes, I literally do this) or marvel at a word’s nuances.

I don’t want this journey to end, and I don’t know where I’m going but as long as I have a well-turned phrase waiting around the corner, I’ll enjoy the ride.



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