Wednesday, December 16, 2009

i talk to myself, but i don't listen....

Words matter.

That's my position for the day, and I'm not changing it.

I've been thinking about words a fair amount, partly because I write for my job, and partly because I have the wonderful opportunity to listen as K&L work their ways toward verbal literacy. It's a beautiful process, one that entertains us and amazes us. And in one of those sad examples of old-dog-new-tricks-failure, I seem to regularly have to relearn that the girls' vocal abilities outstrip their comprehension. This is especially obvious with L, but it's true with both of them.

So, words. Last night this memory came to me during a hard paddling workout:

age: 4th grade (more or less), which would have been Miss Tomita's class, for those of you who are keeping track. (How can I remember all my grade school teachers but not to bring my lunch?!?)
location: basement art room of Castle Hall, Punahou
actors: other boys, the cool ones, talking about surfing and surfboards
outsider: me, wanting to join in, and overhearing, offer up my comments on the "keg."

The other boys, the ones who'd grown up in Honolulu rather than the backwaters of rural Maui, whose families were members of the Outrigger Canoe Club and had summer houses on the north shore and paddled and knew the right things and the right people, they all jumped on my mistake. "'Keg?' It's not a keg!" Not even bothering to give me the correct word (skeg).

And so I faded into the background, focusing on my slightly off-center pottery project, never quite connecting with the cool kids, never even getting on a surfboard until high school, at which point I failed to really learn much in the way of surfing.

This photo captures my coolness apex, with regard to surfing:

Pretty awesome, no?

Not that I blame my lack of surfing skill on being smacked down by 4th grade boys, but the sting still hurts, apparently. (Curious how physical exertion, the exhaustion and lack of oxygen, can allow these long ago moments to bubble to the surface! There I was, gasping for breath on Lake Union, when all of a sudden I remembered not knowing the word for the pointy part on the underside of a surfboard....) For the record, I was a decent swimmer, and became a pretty good body surfer. Just never quite "got" the board thing in any way that mattered.

So, I want to remind myself that while I enjoy K&L's missteps in usage and pronunciation, I also want to be encouraging and supportive. I'll just need to find other people to belittle.

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