Wednesday, February 23, 2011


A couple of weeks ago when I was reading our girl NOW ONE FOOT, NOW THE OTHER, we got to the fourth or sixth page and she got upset.

"Say the magic words, Daddy! Say the magic words!"
"Please? Thank you?" I was pretty sure those weren't it. She repeated her demand. "Shazam? Abracadabra?"
"The words in the book!" She angrily pointed at the words. I started back up again and she kept trying to make me say the magic words, but I had no idea what they were and just got us through for the 200th time and on to into naptime.

She did the same thing the next afternoon, and I still had no idea. That night, I remembered to ask Catherine about it. Apparently, at some point, they established that they were all magic words. You just had to point at them and read them out loud to activate the spell. Which, yeah, I guess I've been behind that for some time now, storytellers as magicians, etc, and not even just Alan Moore, who, clearly.

So. The next afternoon or evening when we were rocking the Tomie de Paola, I knew just what to do when the call came. I put my index finger down and pointed along as I read. And it was magic. Or if you prefer science, it was like somebody put the batteries in the translator. She just started reading along. She didn't get every word and would even sit out the odd phrase, but I'd say she was getting close to half of it perfect. And the funniest part, she wouldn't stop talking for the other half, just kind of la-la-gluh-bla, jabbering her way through until we made it back to a part she remembered.

It made me think, though, how much I take the whole written communication thing for granted. How we trap such a wide spectrum of experience, thought, and emotion and leave it there, charged in just a few possible letters, waiting for someone who speaks the same language to come along and unlock whatever it is we left for them.

They really all are magic words.

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