My son had connected with letters. They were friends. They shared secrets. My son knew things—which were boys, which were girls, and who liked to show off. He could spell by their place in the alphabet—12-9-26 that was me. They were an extension of him.
When most kids were playing, this beautiful boy with the icy-blonde hair would be at his table, writing the alphabet. He was drawing portraits for a gallery. He wanted to write them just so. He wrote them in order, choosing a color for every letter. He was a young man of letters.
Now and then he would stop to write a word. Guitar. Beautiful. I still have them. Then he’d go back to writing letters. I’d watch in complete fascination, wondering what he must be thinking. Where’d he get all that focus? He didn’t talk much for a boy of his age. So it wasn’t likely he would tell me.
At night when I tucked him in, he might tell me about his alphabet friends—if I’d sit on his bed and ask questions. I could coax a few words out of him. It was worth the trouble. I can still see the light in his eyes outshine the light from the hall. I also remember that sentence.
“Talk about letters.”
Letters and spelling, and spelling and letters. I could name other things we might talk about. When I’d try a rhyme, or a song, or a story, he’d listen. He was humoring me. Soon enough we’d be back again.
“Talk about letters.” I know about one-track minds.
What can I say? He was my son. In the dark in his room, I could get him to talk—as long as I talked about letters. Tucking him in became an interview. I looked forward to it and found it exhausting. I had to ask questions about letters. Sometimes I didn’t want to. If I started to leave, he’d say something intriguing.
This was one of those nights. I’d tried to talk about anything—anything other than letters. I didn’t care about A-Z. I wanted to tell a story. It seemed that was out of the question. The alphabet was out of the question for me. Good-night-kiss time had come. I gave him my best one.
“Twinkle, twinkle.” That was my little boy talking. It got my attention. I listened.
“Go on,” I said, feeling a flood of relief.
“Twinkle, twinkle little star. How I wonder what you—T.”
Then he just started laughing. So did I.
Like I said, he was a young man of letters.
This was Nerd Family TV.
—me strauss Letting me be