No, not the ’80s TV series Webster … the dictionary. I’ve mentioned before that Boo is a prolific writer. He’s mostly content to write phonetically, but as is his tendency, increasingly he wants the exact spelling and definition of a word.
Over the past weekend, we’ve been asked to spell (and define) imagination, comprehension, intermission, and probably a hundred other words that I am forgetting. Fortunately, the spelling part comes easy to me and The Dean, proud products of the public school system are we. It’s coming up with these danged definitions for a 7-year old’s comprehension that stumps us.
So I introduced Boo to the concept of using the dictionary. (Not dictionary.com, because with two laptops in the house and four people, the chances that he would be able to go online to look up a word when he wanted to are slim.) I acquired a kids’ dictionary a few months ago, anticipating this need.
He loves it, just as I did when I was slightly older than him. I was one of those kids who was very content reading and writing in my bedroom; I had almost zero interest in playing outside with the neighborhood kids. (Back in the 70s and 80s, one didn’t get a diagnosis for such characteristics. That’s “just the way you were.” Look how stellar I turned out.) Had Al Gore invented the Internet in the early 80s, I might have still been cooped up in my room.
At one point in my childhood, I spent hours reading the dictionary and writing unfamiliar words in a notebook, starting with A. That might explain why I am affectionately (or not) the proofreading-go-to-girl in my office. The fact that I chronicled the dictionary while stealing one sugar cube from the Domino box in the kitchen could also explain why I’m on a first name basis with my dentist, the hygienists, and the receptionist.
I was reminded of all this the other evening when Boo was perusing the dictionary the other night – ironically, looking up the word “dentist,” which didn’t make the student dictionary. I remembered that thrill of learning a new word, of trying to pronounce it, of seeing it take form at the end of my pen.
I need to remember this feeling – for I suspect it is the same for my son – the next time (and the next, and the next …) when Boo asks us for the spelling and definition of a new (to him) word. I need to stop and remember just how wonderful a thing this is, this discovery of new words. Of new worlds.