A tale of two “living letters”…
At 4 ½, I thought of her as a young teen – though she may have been only about 10. An older neighbor kid who occasionally stopped by to “play” with me. Probably when she was bored or at loose ends. We weren’t close, but because she was older, I admired her. I could hardly wait to show her my new skill – I could read!
Oh–so-proudly, I opened my oversized book, laid it out on my lap and across hers, took a breath and began to share my newfound treasure with her. Words swelled in my heart as I delighted in telling the story that went with the pictures, turned the pages at just the right sequence of events. I almost couldn’t believe it myself…but I knew I knew those written words!
Then…like taking a laser-shot to my dream…she used her words to burst and shatter my belief. “You …can’t…read!” she screeched. “Ha! Ha! Ha!” she guffawed, rolling with laughter.
“I can! I can!” I wailed.
Then she broke the real bombshell. “Hah! You’ve just memorized it!”
“I haven’t!” I gulped, on a sob.
Suddenly…I wasn’t sure. Snatching my book, I ran from her…into the house…to mom. She smoothed back my bangs, poured me a soothing cold drink and went to get a simple book. “You do know some of those words by sight,” she consoled me gently. “Now I’m going to teach you how to put letters and sounds together and soon you really will be reading. You don’t have to wait for school, because I can see you already love words.”
From that moment on…I was hooked. When I did start school and someone asked my favorite thing to do… I always answered, reading! Soon, I was checking out and carrying home stacks of library books…to read them to anyone who would listen. That’s when mom introduced me to our new neighbor – a retired teacher. I don’t remember her name. Her face is misted in shadows. But I do remember her kind heart. And the essence of her words that were like a wellspring to me.
“I’d love for you to read to me after school sometimes,” she told me. “Won’t you stop by and show me your favorite books?”
Shyly, I agreed. If she’d asked me to have tea and conversation, I would’ve been too tongue-tied. But oh…if she really enjoyed hearing me… I could read her stories about someone else! Through mists of time, I can see myself sitting in her rocking chair, my latest stack of books at my feet. I can feel her smile…hear her telling me how much she loved my voice. How I had great expression. And when I got stuck on a word, she never laughed or tried to poke herself in until I asked. “I look forward to you coming,” she’d tell me over a “cup of tea,” then confiding, “and visiting all my favorite book characters once again through you!”
Over a few months, I’d rush home with a new book to share, then shyly knock on her door. “Come in!” she’d greet me luminously, making me feel as if she’d been waiting just for me. “I was just hoping you’d stop by to continue our story!”
When someone crushes – oh for the one who lifts us up!
Mrs. _____ , I wish I could recall your name. I wonder if you knew the simple, life-building words He wrote upon my heart through you…like moonbeams to light and inspire my way —
“You have something to offer…”
“You are special…”
“I enjoy you…”
…And I hope my gratefulness was written on yours.
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” — Proverbs 12:18
Be a moonbeam chaser! You never know who will flourish in the light of your words… And if you have a similar story of your own, I’d love to hear it!
© Pam Depoyan
artwork: Vintage artist, Jessie Willcox Smith