"Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it." – Albus Dumbledore
I am, admittedly, verbose.
I once saved the word ‘phantasmagorical’ in my box of alphabetical treasures, waiting for the moment when I could justify its accurate usage. Mid-way through high school I quietly trounced the bookworms with a score that put me, courtesy of my voracious appetite for words, in the country’s top percentile. I cringe at curtly clipped statements, phrases devoid of substance and gentility. I spend countless hours leafing through parchment, finding stories that will take my children on wild adventures carried only by their imaginations and the words on a page. I chased a career that filled my days with words and the power behind them. And in words I found rebirth.
Letters on a page—angry, sad, loving, spiteful, sanctimonious, misinformed, cautious, joyful—that raise the pen high above the sword.
“Mom, why do people say mean things?
“Remember how Miss D**** tells us to take three deep breaths when something upsets us? It’s kind of like that. People should take three deep breaths before they say something, because you can’t take words back after you say them. And words can make you happy or mad or very sad.”
“Do people say mean things about you?”
“Yes. Sometimes they do.”
From the moment those blue eyes said those four words that tore the earth from beneath me—No, he isn’t okay—words have failed me.
I struggled to fill tear stained pages with the pain of a grief that seemed endless, to find the words that would soothe my children’s suffering. Phone calls and emails and well-intentioned visits were a gauntlet run of subtle and not-so-subtle questions about what happened, what I saw, how we felt and what the spoils of death had left me. Words were thrown in anger, sinking deep into my memory like little daggers that would never be freed. I read the reports, reconciling the clinical facts with the moments that replayed soundless in my mind. I watched words on the screen as people hiding in anonymity claimed to know the intimate details, and in words I now recount the painful decimation of the life that I knew to be analyzed and questioned anew.
In words I struggle to give my daughter the strength and the confidence to withstand the hurtful words of children that should not be so willing and able to inflict pain in their own words.
You don’t have a Daddy. You’re not pretty. You’re fat. Your Daddy wasn’t cool.
And in words I watch adults set the examples our children embody, Facebook and happy hours and play dates the grown-up schoolyards where we hide behind claims of loyalty and self-righteousness without regard for the complexities of life and the impact we leave behind with a simple turn of phrase or carelessly thrown word.
“Sweetheart, words are an incredibly powerful gift. And many people don’t realize, or maybe they forget, that we have to be careful how we use that gift. Don’t ever let someone’s words change you, even if they hurt. Words can change the world, but only if you take care and use them wisely.”
“Mommy, I love you so much.”
“I love you, my beautiful girl. More than words can say.”