Friday, April 28, 2006

A Good Head for Words

We moved from Wilson Lane to Strawberry Hill. Across from us was the village ball field. Robin was too young and I was too unathletic to be allowed to play in the pickup games, but my mother solved the problem. She gave us food to distribute to the players – I remember oranges one time – and so we were allowed to play. I only remember being on base once, a magical moment. I stood there, worried that I wouldn’t do the right thing, but awfully pleased. One of the best ball players was an athletic, handsome teenager, Freddy. His brothers were athletic too. When I got to grade five, he was in grade six. Our school had two grades to a room. When I was in grade six, he was still in grade six and sat next to me, his long legs sticking out on the aisle because he couldn’t fit them under the desk. He asked for my help, and I gave it – I think were cheating, but I can’t be sure. This was the first time I realized the extent to which some people were less smart than I was. I knew I was considered smart. At one of the church minstrel shows, a joke was told that required the name of someone smart, and my name was used. But I hadn’t realized how dumb some people were. It seemed unfair to me, but I reconciled myself to the injustice by thinking how good he was at baseball and how handsome he was.

Bill was told the same anecdote by several people about how I had delivered a “piece” at the Christmas program when I was 18 months old. I suppose the event was even more dramatic because I was small for my age and could hardly walk. The story as told to me gave me to understand something about myself. I crawled up the stairs to the platform, stood unsteadily, looking around curiously, and delivered the words.

My father told me several times about talking to a man named LaPointe whose son was born within a few days of me. When we were a little older than a year, my father and LaPointe had a conversation about their kids. “Does your son walk?” “Yes, he’s been walking for a few months.” “My daughter doesn’t walk yet.” “Does she talk?” “Yes, she’s been saying words since she was six months old and talking in sentences since she was one.” “My son doesn’t talk yet.”

No comments: