Monday, April 29, 2013

The Outcomes of Wordplay

As much as writing is a profession, it is also a sport. Wordplay falls within the latter lines as an essential element - and reward - of child rearing.

The process of learning to form and understand words never seemed to be a "job" for my child; it's been more of an ongoing fascination for him -- and a source of great entertainment for me. Perhaps that's because the lifelong writer has inspired the child in subtle ways, unnoticeable even to me, at times, and with surprising outcomes. It's also likely the more obvious: reading's a daily ritual that we have practiced together since his birth.

The better he reads, the bigger his library gets - and the more books seem to disappear from my own shelves and reappear on his. We read thick books together at bedtime, now: leaping long chapters in a single bound, across wide spans of pages lacking pictures and loaded with words, words, words... words pieced into altogether different syntactical shapes and strung along new lines of thought.

This has not been a solo expedition, either. As the child graduates to higher levels of understanding, I, too, must forge ahead and practice ever-higher levels of instruction, explaining the growing complexities of syntax and meaning, humor, paradoxes, metaphors, sarcasm, turns of phrase and figures of speech, in a manner of speaking.

I expect he reads now better than he speaks and writes, but the latter two are catching up with the former one so quickly that I can hardly make the assertion without having to correct myself. The first time I read one of his poems, which earned him a school award at the tender age of seven, I wept. Let the nay-sayers nay-say what they will. My child will turn out just fine. Give him a book, a blank page and a ball point pen, and he can entertain himself (and me) for hours.

I remain fascinated by the various stages of cognitive development, awed by the magnificent processes that unfold with incomprehensibly perfect rhyme and reason there inside the brain, in regions and neighborhoods that are naked to the human eye and yet quite clearly visible when they're behind obvious outward expressions.

Words have meaning and subtleties, we know, but when you put words in the hands of a child who hasn't quite mastered the art of sorting the literal from allegorical and metaphorical...the outcome is brilliant and exceptional, often unintended - and funny. I love being along for the ride. Sometimes it's like bobbing up and down in a primordial sea of alphabet soup, picking out letters; sometimes it's like floating weightless in cognitive outer space, snatching particle-thoughts out of the tails of idea-comets as they streak silently by; sometimes it's like riding seat-beltless in a run-away roller coaster car as it screams along the circuits of a Unix motherboard.

We also know now, he and I, that nonsense words can have better meaning than their sensible peers, and un-words often do a better job of describing things than word-words do. When was the last time you abandoned the traditional rules of sense for more rambling paths of syntax... and traced out your own semantical designs?

This is my latest adventure, called The Youandiser.
You are all rightling and magneticism,
abounderling as you do, so
I sairdedly said
Infinterly as you go,
I am awounding
For immeasures and nevererendy stretches
I skazerly can contain the indomitabilliest hushush true.
Yiked percertain, did we
With unslingable floatedism
Absoluting the edgeries
of sweet kitishskys while the
Jeralding Shushkas blushed
Yourminest sween
as properly ingrested,
And, oh, among the trinkledowny leaves
Saccharine feelishes
And stutters beguned
wending, wending
humming-hims and herisms.

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