Words. They’ve driven my life and my personal passion for reading and writing. I was a geek who loved to read dictionaries and encyclopedias. I still love to learn new words and just realized that I don’t have a physical dictionary for the beach house yet. That’s another acquisition to put on my “to-get” list. I know there are online dictionaries, and I’ve used them. But there’s nothing quite so satisfying as thumbing through the pages of a real, actual, physical dictionary.
Even separate from teaching composition and literature for over 30 years, words have always been important to me. I loved Little Golden Books so much, apparently, that my mother swore that she bribed me into potty training by giving Little Golden Books. Certainly I remember a stack of them, piled by my personal bathroom throne. Of course, she then swore that her problem was getting me out of the bathroom. I just wanted to read.
I was already reading before I started first grade (no kindergarten). By third grade, I was reading 7th grade books, and by 7th grade, I was reading the high-school-level books in our school library (left from the high school that closed in the summer between my 1st and 2nd grade years). I vaguely remember that by 7th grade I had a reading level of 12-grade+.
Always a voracious reader, I loved the parish library. For a while, a lady in Egan had a branch library in her home. By 6th grade I was hitting the public library in Crowley at least once a week — and was frustrated when I discovered that I wasn’t allowed to check out more than 10 books at a time.
That’s when encyclopedias came in handy. I could just grab a volume, open up at random, and pick something to read and learn about.
But it wasn’t just books that fed my hunger.
There were games to play, games that involved words.
I love to play board games – which is a distinct problem, since I live with two dogs and three cats, none of which exhibit the least interest in Scrabble or Monopoly or any kind of human game. When I was growing up, we always had different kinds of games to play, and since I lived in an oil-field camp, there were always lots of other kids to play games with. Whether it was Scrabble or anything else, it was easy to round up people on a rainy day or anytime the urge to play a board game hit.
Now, though, thanks to computers, it’s possible for me to play Scrabble. I can play against the computer. It’s not as fun, but it works. I also can play online with friends, whether we’re playing simultaneously or not.
I’ve also gotten attached to Words with Friends. And Word Scramble.
These and other word games were lifelines for me while I was living with Dad. When I didn’t want to read (admittedly, not often), or just wanted a change of pace, and Dad was sleeping, it was so handy to pull out the iPad and play these games. Some of them I played on and off, at different times of the day.
The word games kept me mentally alert, handy when I sometimes spent hours without talking to anyone. Sometimes, I felt as though those games were what kept me sane. Certainly, they kept me in touch with friends when I was living in Egan, which has maybe 400 people. Maybe. My routine while I lived with Dad and he was home: wake up, feed Dad, give him medicine, get the mail, maybe run errands if someone could sit with him. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I had to get him to dialysis. For a long time, he was on the early shift — which meant that I got up and had him at the clinic at 6:30 a.m. or so. Then I’d run errands or shop. Sometimes I went back to Egan and then drove the ten miles back to Crowley. Sometimes I’d just wander at Walmart.
But the iPad always gave me internet access to my online papers, to Facebook, and to Words with Friends and Scrabble.
Here at the beach house, I have an actual Scrabble game that a friend gave me for Christmas. It hasn’t been opened. Not yet. And I think I’m going to get a Monopoly game as well. I like the old-fashioned board games, when it’s possible for me to get others to play.
It’s Saturday night. I know others are going out and partying. I’m happy to sit here with an adult beverage (gin and tonic, with lime, just right for sweltering summer heat on the Gulf Coast). The word games will keep me entertained for a while.
I’ll settle for a few minutes to catch up with my current Words with Friends games. I think I’ve got 20 going.
And then? Find my current book (a book about the Regency world of Georgette Heyer) and read for a while.
Words. In whatever fashion. I never tire of them.