I love words. However, the word ‘teeming’, from the InkTober prompt list, did not conjure up a single image I could easily draw nor that I wanted to – yes, I did know its meaning immediately. I had to think long and hard before coming up with something that wouldn’t take me hours of detailed line-drawing to sketch or make my skin crawl. When I finally did think of something – it wasn’t a swarm of maggots 😉 –, it was more about a story than an image. After thinking for a while, my brain began teeming with words and memories. I hope that my sketch for the prompt makes sense to more people than me.
My brain is always teeming with words. Partly because I have a tendency to overthink EVERYTHING, but more likely because I learned to read at an early age: I learned to read sometime before I turned four years old. When I started attending junior/pre-kindergarten classes in elementary school, I was already reading. My mother has told stories about being upset because my teacher(s), and school administrative staff, questioned her about whether she had made a mistake and might I be older than what she listed on my registration form.
My mother was not amused that anyone, let alone a young kindergarten teacher, could think she didn’t know the age of her own child. Her annoyance intensified further because that same teacher and the school administration continued questioning, for some time, the likelihood of a four-year-old child learning to read as well as I could so much earlier than what was considered “normal” by academic standards. My memories of that situation aren’t clear. However, I do remember that my mother was not thrilled that when we went out, I felt the need to put my literacy skills to use. I would read EVERY billboard, poster, and road sign as we drove along in the car or traveled by public transit; and while it made my father proud, it drove her bonkers.
As I grew, so did my love for words. When I was a teenager, I was such a word nerd that I used to sit in my room and read the dictionary for hours at a time. No one who knows me well should be surprised by that admission. Additionally, I always gave myself summer-reading assignments. Not to punish myself, but to help the time pass more quickly and to keep my mind occupied. I was also the type of kid that carried a book wherever I went. In case I was the only child at an event I could prevent myself from dying of boredom, or if we were spending time with a family or friends whose children I didn’t quite like I could pretend I was reading homework.
The gift of learning to read at such an early age might be the reason that words are so important to me. I’m interested in their history, how to spell them, how to use them together, whether we use them correctly or incorrectly (e.g. there’s no such word as ‘irregardless’), when to emphasize them, and how they sound. I love writing and listening to long lines of alliteration. Can you see and hear what I did there?
I also know that words can hold tremendous power. Depending on how well one knows another person, we can choose the right words to express affection towards them and make them feel loved and secure. Alternatively, words can deeply wound at exactly the right moment with lasting traumatic effect. This, to me, means that we should always choose the words we speak to each other with care; and these last points may be the most important thing I know about words.