"the silent e"

"Mommy, you know all those pages in our Ramona books with just words?"

"Hmm. Yes?" I'm busy mentally reviewing the grocery list and coupons, reminding myself to take out the list before I get to the checkout.

"Well, I picture those in my head."


The five year old pest busily painting the back of my seat with her muddy boots just acquired a golden aura. It's a struggle to keep my eyes on the road and the car headed for the grocery store. Living with someone who is learning how to read and write is breathtaking, simply life on another plain. Or is it plane? Surely we are soaring here. Yesterday she told me about the magic "e" that is quiet and makes vowels say their own name.

"Wow. You are well on your way to being a really good reader." Dull words, but I'm driving and can't safely wrap my arms around her to twirl through space in celebration.

I see myself, sometime during her first twelve hours with a name, reading to her from Robert Louis Stevenson's Garden of Verses. My doctor entered the room while I was reading and may have thought I'd read one too many yuppie parenting books. But it was her daddy's copy, the one his mom used to read to him before bedtime, a bridge to family. I had to show her, right away, that we would spend our life together reading. Books from the very beginning were my gift for her life.

And she's taken it. On her way now, in mincing, deliberate steps and ungainly frog leaps and with all embracing, wind-making wings, she is wishes come true. With an eagle's grace she is headed into a life as placid and stormy and rainbow filled as the sky. Journeying into stories, she will see herself in other waters. Sometimes dimly, sometimes in all her glorious colors, free always to venture further or stop to quench her thirst and hunger. Never as captive or alone as she fears. No one ever is, but only those who read know that.

Will the pages save her from peril? Probably not. But I hope that they will be a haven from loneliness and pain and fear, that she will choose to burrow between the covers of books.

She can carry the shopping list. Could be the only way I can be sure to buy the food our bodies need. For now, my heart and mind have enough. I don't even crave chocolate.

Born on the seventh day of the seventh month, the oldest child in a family of seven, I've always felt seven was my magic number. Now my daughter is seven, and I'm sure of it. She reads. All by herself, with pleasure, on the bus, at the dinner table, and late into the night.

A different mother would insist on lights out by a decent hour. Or at least buy her a good flashlight to use under the covers. But she's discovered the door to many lives and places, a door that opens her heart and mind. I won't deny her passage, no matter the cost.

Today she told me that I was kidding when I told her that TV wasn't invented when I was a child. She knows because television was in one of her books that is set before I was born. Reading will give her the facts, sometimes when she and I least expect them.

Earlier this week she informed me that her book had Spanish words, but that was okay because she could look in the back of the book to find out what they meant and how to say them. Reading will give her language, native and foreign, to name her worlds. Words will be her light in the dark tunnels she must traverse, and the green grass over which she will skip and dance.

One day after school she stated that she knew two words that didn't follow the ending silent e spelling rule, "have" and "love." She will discover that "have" and "love" don't follow any rules. Ever.

Before leaving the house this morning I reminded Colleen and Riley that I wanted them to be agreeable in the car. He repeated "agreeable." She spelled it. Correctly.

"Good spelling. I didn't know you knew that word!"

"I didn't. Sometimes my mind just tells me how to spell words."

Write "Ellavon" at ellavon@ellavon.com.
Editor: Robert Basil. Special thanks to June Denbigh, Ray Szeto, and the Raylock Design Group.
Copyright retained by all contributors.

Released: May 6, 1998