Hindsight Is My Co-Author

Hindsight is my co-author; she tells a better story (and is a bit more humorous about it too). I don't mind. I like her point of view.

Truth be told, I've never considered myself a writer. Sure, I can do it - I learned the rules, paid attention in school. I knew I'd need it; it's a foundational necessity, like math. (Math didn't come as naturally, but I suppose I considered them equally exciting.) Writing is not the same as storytelling - it's much harder.

I would pass on writing altogether if it weren't for my greatest love: words. I could lose myself in the story of each one (and they do each have a story, it's called etymology). Luckily for me, I was born into a family of English teachers, music lovers, passionate storytellers (and an overall humorous bunch), and therefore grew up surrounded by books, stories, and colorful characters.

I learned to read pretty early, though I don't recall the exact age. I finished kindergarten when I was four, but Mom and Dad decided not to send me on to first grade quite yet, so I stayed another year. A good portion of my first memories are being the teacher's helper all year long, because I'd already done the schoolwork. So I basically handed out papers and read books at my desk. The stories were great for killing time, and I rather enjoyed it. That year, I had a crush on a boy named Eddie Pitts, discovered a personal fascination with primary colors and the color wheel, and got to present the cloud classifications at graduation. Cumulus, stratus, cirrus, nimbus.  Whoot.

So far, school was working out pretty great. I liked it. Moving on to first and second grades, I was on-par with the class for the rest of the subjects but reading/language were especially easy for me. The teachers split the class into reading groups, but each year I was my own 'group' - and would usually sit with a teacher's aide or with an older student. I didn't feel set apart then, it hadn't made much of a difference yet. I recall fun bits and pieces of those years; namely, bats and sharks (loved 'em), a crush on a boy named Mike (he could draw better than I could, I was enamored of him), and a teachers' aide with a Pobody's Nerfect notepad and a penchant for gummy rats.

Each year they gave us the usual battery of school tests...you know, the ones where they tell you 400 times to only use a Number Two pencil and you get to read short stories with bland questions and color in small circles. I enjoyed the tests but the bits where the teacher read the questions aloud were the worst, because I wasn't allowed to turn the page until the class was ready, and I was always done before everyone else. You can't look anywhere but your own page, because then it looks like you're cheating. And if you stare at the ceiling, the teacher will get exasperated with you and ask you to please stop staring at the ceiling like that, because you're distracting the rest of the children.

So I started playing word games with whatever I happened to see on the page. After I was done answering the questions, though. (I wasn't bored enough to wreck the test, I was proud of my work.) But once each page was finished, I would make up word games in my head, or try to find patterns in the answers (a,b,a,a,c,b..?). It was the safest option, I couldn't afford to get in trouble again; I'd gotten my first detention early in second grade: for reading (I'd stash a book on my lap, under my desk) while the teacher was talking. Busted.

By third grade, some test results came back that made my parents all jazzed and got them talking to the teachers and stuff. I was vaguely aware that the results were good, and that some part was especially noteworthy because I found myself not only in my own reading group, but seated on the steps outside the classroom with a new novel each week. (The test had something to do with reading and contextual comprehension; I'd scored post-college level or something.) Poor Mrs.[?] probably didn't know what to do with me; she had a classroom full of bouncy third graders already. Overall I enjoyed it. I loved the stories; the characters became my best friends because I shared my days with them (and could bring them home with me, to read before bed! Bonus.) That was also the year I officially became a geek: I asked for a dictionary for Christmas, it was my number one request. I was reading books with very big words, and I felt that a personal dictionary would suit my needs just fine. I still have it

I was a shy and goofy kid, and made friends as well as the next person. Yes, I was different...just not enough to be teased much. More than anything, I think it intimidated the other kids. I learned two things pretty early: if you're smart, try not to be an asshole about it (it's not necessary, it just alienates you); and that being shy can be misinterpreted as stuck-up, so having a good sense of humor makes a difference. This picture, with the pigtails, was third grade - it was a good year - but I love this picture most because I clearly remember wanting the whole school pictures affair to be done so I could get back to my book.

I would often finish my book early, peek in the window to find the class engaged in a reading exercise of some sort, and decide to take myself for a walk. (I should mention that I attended a rather small Christian school, of which my Granddad was the Superintendent and my Gram was the ESL teacher. I was comfortable there, it was like a second home.) If Gram wasn't busy, she'd let me come sit in her office/classroom where we'd share tea cookies and she'd entertain me with amusing stories about her students. ESL is English as a Second Language; she taught language acquisition to incoming students from other countries and tested them for class placement. Her love of her work and the kids was obvious, and her stories were colorful and (if I can be frank) quite hilarious. Hindsight has pointed out that my love of language, people, and stories is no accident - it's hereditary. 

Back then, the separation meant that I was sometimes lonely - but more than anything, it shaped my original and independent perception of the world around me. As long as I can remember, I've been most comfortable observing people. They can be such characters, and the events of each person's life is a story, unfolding before us. 

Each story is filled with the words that describe, shape and build the world as the storyteller understands it. And each story can be so vastly different, depending on the words the storyteller chooses. I was fascinated with this concept long before I knew Cultural Anthropology, Linguistics or Philosophy existed. Words have always been the looking-glasses through which I see the world; hearing Gram's stories of how kids learned English showed me that everyone experiences words this way, whether they are aware of it or not. Words shape a language, a language shapes culture, cultures shape people, ideas and perceptions, and new perceptions spur growth. 

So this explains my love of words. It's not as glamorous as a love of shoes (although those are great), nor is it as exciting as a love of skydiving (maybe I'll try it one day), and it's certainly not as relateable as a love of major league sports (uhhhhh....), but it's certainly "me". It took me years to figure out why the hell I majored in Linguistic Anthropology, but now I have Hindsight to thank for tying the whole bit together. I suppose this blog post is my way of paying homage to her valuable input.   


  1. I love this post. I can relate to being a total geek in elementary school, especially in reading. I got in trouble all the time for reading during class or not paying attention when she was reading because I'd already gone out and gotten the book and finished it. I laughed when you mentioned the dictionary part, because my grandma gave me a dictionary for my 6th birthday and it's still one of my most prized possessions. I was always asking for books for Christmas and birthdays and to this day my love for video games comes after reading and books by a vast margin. Thanks for sharing this, it was a great read :)

  2. Thanks for the guffaws, the grins and the trip down memory lane. Fantabulosity personified. (and yes, we were very jazzed. We had a freakin genius and we knew it before you were 5 years old.)


The space below is where you try to be funnier than us. Ok, go.