Taking Dictation

Once upon a time in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, there was a little girl who loved words. As a first child with a stay-at-home mother, I was read to frequently and regularly. I strengthened my eyes and mind by reading along with Mom or Dad by kindergarten or first grade.

The adults in my family used to delight how my child’s mind made sense of the world. One lunch-table discussion about Kraft’s extra-sharp black label cheddar cheese, when I was about five, illustrates this.

It used to have a cartoon raccoon on the label, and back then it was called Coon Cheese. One day, my little sister asked why it was called that and, before the grownups could answer, I said, “They go out in the woods and pick up all the old dead ‘coons. Then, they grind ’em up and make cheese out of ’em.” After all, if a ‘coon was on the label, doesn’t that make sense?

Sis said, “Oh, okay,” while the adults exchanged looks. It wasn’t the first time we’d had that product – in fact, we loved it – and we weren’t squeamish kids. We both finished our cheese sandwiches and ran off to play, with no harm done.

My first love, though, was poetry. Sometimes Dad would read out of a slim gray volume from a college literature class, and the rhythm of the poems trickled through my ears and made me sway with the sound of his voice. I made up little poems before I could read or write.

My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Summers, taught us about syllables by having us write our own poems. She also required us to get library cards, and bring library books to school to practice our reading. I loved her fiercely, and decided to become a teacher because of her.

And reading in the library was such an adventure! Words painted pictures behind my eyes, and I watched stories unfold like movies in my head. As I grew, I wrote my mental pictures down. I no longer have those early ‘movie scripts’ (most were lost during my parents moving twice). But I still take dictation when my characters speak, and fill in the background: actions, details, and surroundings.

I didn’t become a teacher, but I never stopped writing. I hope to someday share them with others.