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When the Letters Dance

He wants to know when he will read. When he will sit like sister does all comfy on the couch, legs underneath her, pages near her nose. Laughing out loud at the funny parts and looking up when someone in the kitchen says, “what’s so funny?” And so he asks, again bent over the shelves at the library, one hand in the air, as if he’s really asking God and not me. “When will it be my turn?”

And he waits for a new reply. Waits to hear me say, “today” or “right now.” But I disappoint him again and say, “soon.”And his lips tremble as he utters, “I should know how by now.” And even though my hand is on his shoulder and I have pulled him close, it does not console. Both our eyes are sad. And tired. And worn out by letters.

These letters. The twenty-six that he has shaped and sounded out a thousand times. The ones he presses in concentration from the tip of his pencil, and which, despite this effort still end up backwards or upside down on his paper half the time. Like flipping a penny.

Lots of pennies.

These letters–a mess of round parts and tails–that move on the page each time he tries to read. How they dance. And joust. And do not sit still–like him. And how impossible it is to read when you are dizzy from watching letters.

But the garden doesn’t make him dizzy. Doesn’t hurt his head like letters. And so he builds a maze of culverts. Takes discarded pvc pipe and tunnels it through the dirt. And forty times I am summoned from my place at the kitchen sink to “hurry and see” each new configuration–to wait as he runs barefoot, first to the faucet handle and then back to the dirt with the hose flapping in front of him. And how he is smiling in satisfaction as holes and pipe fill just the way he thought they would.

The same is for the homemade coat rack swaying in the living room, inches from the couch and two feet from the wall. A three-pound wooden block drilled with hanging hooks and dangling with Dollar Store twine over the upstairs banister. Drilled and balanced such that all of his coats hang like artwork. Until from above he reels them up like fishing line. And until after a week, Dad says, “no more coat rack,” and it is dismantled one jacket at a time.

But it’s the faded lawn chair, which has withstood all of summer’s weather. The one we shared in the backyard, my back sucked against the frame, his buns sitting on the fabric between my legs. The one we still sat in even after the stack of books was read. His head to my chest, my fingers in his hair. That one. Where he wished aloud that he could be this age forever and that I would be this age forever, so that we could still sit in this chair. Just the two of us.

Where we do not worry about words. Or talk of letters.

We just love.


3 Responses to “When the Letters Dance”

  1. Ruth Slagowski says:

    Absolute sweetness……. <3

  2. Linda H says:

    My heart breaks for him. I understand what he is going through because that was me many years ago. I’m still not a good reader but I do enjoy reading these days. I tell him “For some people certain things are just more difficult than for others. Pretty soon it will all make sense.”
    He is a very bright boy. He is in my prayers.

  3. Gail Redberg says:

    Sometimes reading things backwards is a blessing. I read this after I read PAT. I am glad that I did for my heart would have broken had I read them right way round.
    Maybe it is that way for your boy too. Maybe seeing things from back to front is what is needed when engineering irrigation projects. When he gets the reading thing conquered, which I know he will, he will be like Leonardo de VInci with his mirrored notes and ambidextrous mind.

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