Santa Maria Sun / Humor
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 22
A way with wordsOut of the mouths of babes ...
BY SHELLY CONE
For two hours I sat in the silent, dimly lit dining room, clutching my coffee cup and staring at the blue screen of my computer. It was a blank page and it seemed to scream at me. “Write something already!” I wanted to ask what I was thinking—“Write what?”—but the blank page had become too intimidating. So I just stared at it. Frozen.
As a writer, I struggle with language far more than I think I should. Sometimes there are too many words, and I have to swim in them aimlessly until I finally reach the point. Other times they are sparse, like water in a desert. Still other times I have to wrestle with words, trying to make them bend to my will and express what I want them to convey. This is true in writing for me as much as with speaking.
I’ve used them to my advantage at times. When I was a little girl, my parents would watch as my big mouth got me in trouble with my playmates. As they began to turn on me, I apparently would somehow talk my way out of trouble by using those same words to weave a protective shield that allowed me to walk away, leaving my playmates confused about what just happened.
Other times in my life, words have gotten me in trouble with employers—like my very first employer, a dentist who continually wrote me up for talking with the patients too much. By my early 20s, I’d learned to control my words to a great extent, spending them like a miser—at least until a second glass of wine. It seems that words have always had a greater control over me than I of them. Either I speak too many or too few. And I definitely can’t write until the words come, and when they come is definitely not up to me.
That’s why it surprises me that my youngest son has such a grasp of language and expression. At 6 years old, he uses complicated sentences, big words, and witty concepts with complete control. Fortunately for Sebastian, my 7-year-old nephew, Jaxon, does the same thing. When they get together and speak, it sounds like two old men outside a doughnut shop debating politics, their conversations peppered with superfluous words that pretty up sentences and that almost no little kid uses.
“Actually, Sebastian, I don’t think you get it. Godzilla will be victorious because he has the right skills. I think you are underestimating him,” Jaxon will say.
“Uh, no, Jax, you forget that Captain America has that circle thing. Mom, what’s the right word? Yeah, a ‘sheel.’ In a fight between Captain America and Godzilla, it would be literally ‘humilidating.' Seriously.”
That’s the thing. Sebastian actually searches out the correct words. For me, “thingy” was a legitimate noun substitute for a long time—and often it is still. Yet even though he may pronounce the words wrong, he seems to always know which to choose—often with great comedic timing.
Recently when we trekked across country, he sat through miles of Wyoming flatlands. They call it the Great Grasslands, but I call it the Big Nothing. No houses, no animals, no trees, no telephone poles, and especially no restrooms. For hours. Sebastian had to use the restroom urgently. His brothers, of course, thought it appropriate to talk poo. “Please don’t talk about poo,” he said, now grimacing and bouncing in his seat. As we got close to a town, the GPS system told us to take the next exit.
Then she said, “Turn right,” and Sebastian yelled, “Please stop talking about poo!”
“No one said anything, Sebastian,” Ron said.
“Then why did she just say ‘Turd right’?” Sebastian asked painfully.
Then he, along with everyone else in the car, started laughing before he added, “No, really! Hurry up! I gotta go!”
He’s also never at a loss for words. He’s been using this lately to increase his negotiation skills—something all children seem to be naturally good at.
When his classmate, who lives next door, seemed to be having a party, he couldn’t bear to hear the fun and know he wasn’t there. He was frustrated that I wouldn’t allow him to party crash.
“It’s a family function,” I said.
“So? It’s not like I’m shy or something. I can talk to a lot of people and make friends.” He said this with all of the sarcastic facial expressions and hand gestures he could.
I insisted he couldn’t go. As the party went on into the evening, he tried another tactic.
“Mom, let me ask you something. Do you like cake?”
“Yes, I like cake,” I said.
“Well, there’s cake next door. It’s a party. There is cake. You should take me over there and then you can get cake and I can play with my friends,” he said.
He always knows what to say, but I never know how to respond to his remarks—so instead I laugh.
For me, wordsmithing is like a superpower that comes and goes arbitrarily. So while I battle with my nemeses—whether it be a blank page or a conversation that isn’t flowing—I know that Sebastian will always provide me with plenty of material to keep the words going.
Shelly Cone thought about asking Sebastian to write this column, but she knew she couldn’t break him away from planning his YouTube