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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Reading (01/25/07)

TITLE: My Love Affair with Words
By Debora Dyess


My parents told me I learned to read before I could talk—sounds pretty impressive until you discover I was four before I could speak intelligibly.

One tale goes that I went next door to my grandparent’s house while the insurance man was there. I let go with a string of gibberish.

My grandmother nodded. “Yes, but keep it in the kitchen in case you spill.” She saw the confused look on the man’s face. “She wanted milk.”

“How nice,” the man smiled. “Your granddaughter is visiting all the way from France!”

And, no…I didn’t speak French, either.

So, my reading before speech is not only less impressive, but totally improvable. (Who knew, really, what I was ‘reading’ as I jibber-jabbered through the texts of Dr. Seuss?)

I still remember Dick and Jane. They weren’t merely characters in books to me; they were my friends. We used to play ‘Dick and Jane’. My cousins were always Dick and Sally. I was always Jane. My little sister, who couldn’t read yet, and didn’t know the stories anyway, was always Fluff, the cat. We reenacted the dialogue from the books, embellished it to make it our own, and pretended hour after hour from those simple tales.

My mother used to write notes for me in church when I got too loud. I think they kept me quiet mostly because it took me a while to sound out the words. One day she passed me her tiny, pocket spiral. “Be QUIET!!” she’d written in bold, black block print. This confused me; it usually just said, “Shhhhhhh!”

I really struggled with that second word.

The pastor, poor soul, was wrapping up his sermon about the same time I unlocked that mysterious letter combination. “So what will you say to Jesus when He calls you to His service?” Brother Eberhart asked.

Oblivious to his words I jumped to my feet and victoriously shouted, “Be quiet!”

(Did I mention that my dad was the music minister and my mom was the church secretary?)

My father was, when he wasn’t directing music or earning a living, an armature author, from a long line of amateur writers. He was, in real life, an electronics technician for the post office. That was, as he explained to me, a glorified mechanic. If nothing was broken there was little to do on an eight hour shift. So he found productive ways to occupy his time. On these long midnight shifts when nothing went wrong he wrote. The modern writing device of that day was the teletype, and Dad would type for a while, attend his few duties, and peck away some more. Some of my dearest memories with him took place during the summers. He’d rush through the door from his eleven-to-seven shift about the time Mom woke us kids. We’d all sit at the table, breakfasting as we listened to the latest installment on whatever story he was working on at the time. It took me a while to figure out that ‘I wrote three inches last night’ didn’t mean three inches down from the top of the paper, but that three inches was the diameter of the scroll of paper that came off the teletype. I still have some of them—rolled up and tucked away in an old cigar box.

Reading allowed me to fall in love with words. I love the feel of them on my tongue ad the whimsical dance they make flittering through my brain. Better than any movie or TV show, reading allows me to release the power of my mind’s eye to the miracles and mysteries discovered by others, given to me on the printed page. Each line of dialogue, each poignant description, gives me a greater love of words, and through that, for The Word.

I thrill as a good author paints a picture for my mind. Imagine this, taken from E.W. Crowe’s, ‘The Guardian’s Keep’: “'On the other side rested a large, inky pond, settled in a clearing of trees. The moon rolled a shimmering yellow carpet along the surface, stretching to the shore as if inviting her to come.” It’s as clear as if you were there.

But, better still, the feeling as my soul sings to Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jen Davis02/02/07
First of all, I couldn’t resist a story with your title. I enjoyed a few laughs reading about your deciphering your mother’s written words in such a timely manner. The paragraph about your father’s job was also very interesting. Sounds like a dream job for a writer. And what an awesome keepsake you have of his work.
Joanne Sher 02/03/07
I loved your humor and poignancy in this piece. What a wonderful walk through your love affair. I enjoyed the trip!
Mariane Holbrook 02/04/07
I loved it! I imagine you also have several humor pieces tucked away in another cigar box somewhere.
Good job!
Joy Faire Stewart02/05/07
Love the humor and that grandmother could understand gibberish...delightful piece!
Sally Hanan02/06/07
You have some adorable childhood memories in this one. Because there were a few in one piece, it disrupted the flow to jump from one to the other without making something in particular about reading the theme. I think I'd revamp it and focus on where reading took your imagination, or else on how it connected you to family to sharpen it.
Thanks for the sweet tales.
Phyllis Inniss02/07/07
I enjoyed this article. You gave us a walk through in a humorous way of your early life and love of words and you painted this with love not only for words but for your family.