Friday, July 07, 2006

Effin' Books

It is way, way too nice to be blogging. That's my excuse. Ever since I destroyed our laptop in a fit of rage directed someone else, anyone who wants to use the computer (no longer a laptop) now has to do it in the walkout basement, attached to a cord and wedged between the water heater and the unused wood-burning furnace. There is no sunlight, it's just a tiny bit stale, and -- aw, hell, why am I even down here? It's 75 and sunny outside, and this place is a riot of life in the summer -- tadpoles, dragonflies, wildflowers, weeds, butterflies, frogs, birds that fly into plate-glass windows and then sit quietly enough for you to approach and look at carefully. Uh, when they don't break their own little necks. Ahem.

But John has reached a milestone, and one that must be marked. He's discovered the F-word.

The subject had been broached months ago. John learned at school that the middle finger is cause for much tee-heeing and furtive glances, and one friend informed him that if the middle finger is pointing up, that's bad, but if it's pointing down, that's OK because it's pointing at the devil and that's OK to point it at the devil. "But what does it MEAN?" he concluded.

I told him that it was a very rude gesture and often stood for a grown-up word that meant "I am against everything you stand for, go away." Or something like that. And please don't do it again.

Today I was working in this basement away from the sun when John came down, looking serious.

"Mom, I think I know what the middle finger means."

I stopped typing. "Really. What?"

"I think it means a bad word. I think I know what the word is." I could see his conscience poking him.

"If you want to say it, please do, so I know what it is."

And then my seven-and-a-half-year-old son opened his mouth and said, "Fuck."

Thinking it was too bad it was a work day, and so I couldn't start drinking at two in the afternoon, I said, "You know what? You're right. But that's a really, really tough word, and I think you understand when I say that we don't use that word."

He nodded, shaky. I put my hand on his arm. "It's OK -- I'm not mad at all. I'd like to know where you found that out."

He pulled himself together and told me. Turns out it's my own darn fault. I was reading "YOU Back The Attack! WE'LL Bomb Who We Want!" by Micah Wrightand John had found it and looked through it.

It was interesting to watch him tell me about it. He was agitated -- not embarrassed, but almost in awe of the word. "It's OK," I said. "Words are powerful, but we don't need to be afraid of them. Words can hurt people, but when we understand them and talk about them, we can make sure their power isn't scary."


  1. Anonymous10:21 AM

    Birds - have you tried anything to help them recognize the plate glass windows? Hawk silhouettes cut out of black paper and taped to the windows should help. Love your writing!

  2. Yes! I did cut out a hawk shape and tape it up, and we haven't had a problem since. It works.

    Thanks for the compliment, too. :)

  3. Well done!

    I think I'm still scarred by finding my mom's copy of the Hotel New Hampshire when I wasn't too much older than John . . .