words

by tobias crabtree

i came down to mexico to help a buddy start a new business. i’m never the “brains” of anything…most often i’m the knuckle-dragger. it fits my personality to be just that. the last three days i’ve been laid up with a bad case of bathroom blues. i’ve traveled aplenty and know the risks of drinking the water and eating the food, i’m careful to some extent but never really too careful. this time around i think i got what was coming to me. i dove into some sewage drainage to retrieve a $300.00 boat part (what can i say, i’m a bit of a cheap skate). i couldn’t find the part and i was sick within 24 hours. i know the signs and i took the appropriate precautions, stayed pretty “herbal” with tea and potions, and feel like i’m on the upswing. this, however, isn’t what i’m wanting to write about. it’s just that staying close to a toilet for 3 days led me staying in a house, which led me to spending time with 4 year old ruby. ruby’s one of my dear old friends. i’ve known her since birth.

so ruby’s learning letters and sounds and language and time and reason and “heads or tails”. all these things and more are very interesting to her. i took the opportunity to jump in and knock out a couple school lessons with her. we went over the vowels and the longs and the shorts of them. we tackled “Y” as well. we dabbled in some spanish in between. whenever she ran out of steam for the brute learning part of things, we dipped into easier stuff, like drawing cute dresses with matching shoes. i’ve realized i have a real knack for outfits since hanging with ruby. she went crazy over a couple of my designs and even had me re-draw one a little bigger so she can show it to someone in order to have it made. hell, yes. 

now and again, i would have to take a break to head you know where. of course she started noticing and would say, “tobias, again?!”, and then we would laugh. she’s such a smartie. we talked and drew the most of three days while her dad picked up my slack on the boat and her mom took care of everything that moms take care of…which i think might be a never-ending list. 

when we were going over letters, making the sounds and combining them to make words, i saw some lights going on in little ruby’s eyes. it was downright amazing. one sound, and another and another…now faster. put them together. letters go from sounds to a word that carries a meaning that we recognize. so ruby has words in her head that she understands; the mystery lies in the symbols that are written.  

these little forms. these typed letters. signs for sounds.

maybe this isn’t interesting to you, but to me, it is profound. i don’t need a computer to leave my thoughts to be seen by someone. i don’t need an iphone. i don’t need a typewriter (remember those?). i don’t even need a pen and paper. i can scratch words into stone or mud. i can put thoughts together and leave them for the past. words are colors on a pallet and it’s up to us to put them together so that they paint our thoughts correctly. words used recklessly are amateur. words chosen wisely can change the fate of life. 

as i sounded out “c-a-t” with little ruby, and watched her freckly nose, i felt my heart begin to swell. us two humans, one 4 years old, one 45…both of us dreaming our wild dreams. and when she is 45 and i’m turning to dust in a hole, maybe she’ll find some of these symbols written and bound by hope for her survival in this human laden world. 

i can think of nothing better to do than spend time with a friend and have them help me lose some of my cynicism while i help them sound out “c-a-t”. alright, off to the bathroom…again.