Speak Easy, Speak Hard

Dear Ellie — Your grandfather and I are getting a little impatient. We haven’t seen you since Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving! That was more than three months ago. Since then, you’ve started talking. That’s such a miraculous time for your parents and grandparents, when a child interacts with you in a whole new way.

The first word we heard you speak was agua. Gotta love that Spanish immersion daycare you’re in.

Spanish world cloud from spanishplans.org

Anyway, next week, Opa and I are hopping a flight to come to see you and your parents in Seattle. Finally. We’ll get to hear you talk in person — and won’t have to be reduced to playing and re-playing the video your father sent of you saying Coco for the first time. (I believe I’ve watched that video a good 3,000 times.)

Speaking! You’ve entered a new world, baby. Your grandfather and I are both deeply involved in that verbal world, but in very different ways. He looks at language scientifically and methodically, finding new meanings and revelations in the ways people speak and write — the text beneath the text. To me, as a writer and lifetime reader, language is a refuge and an escape. I find beauty and comfort and meaning in it to the point I could swear I get drunk on a lovely sentence; I’ve always been a cheap drunk, in my own way.

Come to think of it, your parents are language freaks, too — communicating brilliantly in their work and personal lives. I’ll never forget how fiercely your mother took to debate when she was in high school. After that, nobody in the household ever won an argument with her. (Please think about taking debate yourself so you can return the favor.)

And here you come!

All of which doesn’t quite explain why adults are so rapturous about a child they love beginning to speak. Or maybe it does. Maybe it simply means you are entering our world.

You’ll go from words to sentences, oral language to written. You’ll use language to express your feelings, to reach out to other people, to say I love you, to say good-bye. Language will enrich your life, give it color and meaning and nuance. It can be used to comfort and it can be used to hurt. You can clarify with language, and you can use it to hide behind.

What an intricate, rich, colorful, occasionally treacherous, funny, and fascinating world you’re entering. But I guess, now that I think of it, that has been the point of this blog all along — that one day, you’d enter this world of language and read what I’d been writing you for years. I’m waiting, my darling, pink-cheeked dumpling, for you to write back. love you, Coco

3 comments

  1. Alexandra · March 8

    First words are special indeed. Hope you have a wonderful visit!

  2. Laurie · March 8

    You nailed it, Ruth! Thank you, and have a marvelous visit. I know you will.
    Laurie

  3. Robbie Ausley · March 8

    Enjoy your time with Ellie……..my wish is that she uses language to enrich other lives as much as her Coco does! Thanks for your beautiful perspective about language!