My brothers and I grew up with a grandmother as fond of literature as the changing sky is always some inevitable shade of blue. She took every opportunity to teach us the way of the words, even during sermons. I remember being no more than five in the middle of a church pew, bobbing my white blonde ringlets as my grandmother pointed at fading words in her wrinkling Bible. If I could recognize the strand of letters and understand which letter created which words, I was rewarded an M&M.
I know what you’re thinking – one M&M – it’s not that great a deal, Emily. However, you are so very wrong, and I hate to break that to you our first time chatting.
That beautiful, round, perfectly coated little M&M had me trained so well my grandmother could have been Pavlov. Learning new words became my favorite hobby as Granny continued to give the treats well into my first year of kindergarten. I pretended to read the precious words of a children’s book to my mindless baby brother, waiting for the thrill when the letters suddenly made sense as sentences.
When my mind had matured enough to begin reading chapter books, I was ecstatic. Well, I was, until I discovered my new knowledge meant the end of M&M’s. I’d passed the years of training. Treats were no longer needed for me to indulge in my recently learned reading activities. I felt betrayed. I began to identify with my childhood dog. My poor mop of a pup, Molly, had finally been potty trained therefore she no longer needed the pieces of my snacks or whatever I was eating to encourage her good habit – or so I thought. She had learned what I’d wanted, now she didn’t need the reward. ‘Problem solved,’ I’d think, wiping her saliva off my palms. ‘I don’t have to share my popsicles with her anymore.’ But now, oh god now, I understood the pathetic confusion in her sloppy tongue after she licked my kiddie hands after taking a nice pee in our backyard. There was no doggie treat there. There were no M&M’s waiting for me when I turned a page in my beloved Junie B. Jones book.
Though this surprise felt like disappointment, my love of reading didn’t change. Instead, I forged a greater love for thesauruses and invented my own stories to create the beautiful wonder I’d had at age five when the letters blended together. I read these stories I create to my newest baby brother, who at age 9 is discovering the love language of letters and punctuation, and now I share them with you, my readers.
This is a page About me, and now you know.
I still eat M&M’s when I write.