Monday, October 31, 2005

NFTV: A Young Man of Letters

You might recall the pilot of Nerd Family TV, The Milk Story. Our son was half past age three. He was obsessed with spelling everything that he saw. This episode happened that same season.

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.

“Sweet dreams.”

“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


Anonymous said...

Ahh a new version to one of my favorite songs.

That's interesting about 'letters'

My mom said I loved the alphabet. At about age 3 I became obsessed with it...then I started preschool and I had bigger and better things to learn :)

Okay I must run. Gotta go to a meeting in NH (ugh--this ain't going to be a fun day)

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Hi Jennifer,

I'm starting to think your mom and I would get along well. I giggle to see you using letters to spell New Hamphire. :)


Anonymous said...

How sweet. I can't help wondering how your son feels about letters now, since this was clearly an inborn passion. I am especially impressed because I have a son too, and he bitterly resents letters. He actually cries when I tell him it's time to get out the fat pencil and do his biweekly homework assignment. Each letter is resentfully, tearfully delivered to paper, illegible. After he finishes, I attach a post-it note to his teacher pleading for mercy.

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Good morning Betty,
He's still very good friends with letters. He's a writer and was deep into the periodic table for many years. :) Now of course he also does web design . . . besides his organic chemsitry classes.

I'm not sure whether they still share secrets anymore. Like I said it's hard to get him to talk about it.


Anonymous said...

Remarkable, but you don't need me to tell you that. :o) And I have been and always will be a fan of "Twinkle, Twinkle" Although now it has a new twist.

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Hi Easy,
Thank you. It was a pretty special moment for so many reasons. I think he might have been the first who made that pun. No one I've ever said it to has heard it before.


The Complimenting Commenter said...

That is a really cute story and ending. Thank you for sharing it.

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Than you Commenter,
I appreciate you saying so.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard that joke before, and I've heard a lot of kid jokes. That is a very endearing story. A remarkable child.

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Hi Moose,
I do think that it was his obsession with letters that made the joke occur to him. As a teacher, I've been around many small children as well. Never heard that joke either. He's one in a million.
Glad to meet you.


Anonymous said...

What a sweet story for sharing! :-D Your post was written in Oct 2005, just wondering is your son still a young man of letters after 3 years? :-D

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

He's very much a grown man now. That story was already a memory when I wrote it.

But yes, he's a still a man of letters. It stayed with him. Thank you for asking.