Primary Education

As a child I often sat in the bathtub with my mother
where, with the tips of her fingers,
she would trace each letter of the alphabet
on my back.

What’s this one?
P. No wait, it’s O.
That one’s an E, I think,
and the next, when you lift your finger,
must be a T.

And then it was her turn to guess
the letters I drew upon her
and to uncode the secret messages
when they were strung together:
This is fun.
I love the alphabet.
I love you.

It was an ancient kind of magic,
mother and daughter breathing water vapor
and learning to become
one again –

mapping language on each other
until touch dissolved into letter,
dissolved into alphabet,
dissolved into soap.

One tap to the spine and
my mind was my body,
my body was my mind

and my skin shivered to read letters
in a way my eyes couldn’t.

It was as if she knew, somehow,
that I would need this knowledge –
that, like a blind person, I would need to feel
the alphabet as braille against my skin

and to know the shape of language,
and to translate that shape into story
and to know exactly what the touch of a finger


5 thoughts on “Primary Education

  1. This is very beautiful and important. I wish I had done something similar with My Daughter, but I did have the experience of her enunciating a “big” word in the bathtub. She used to slide around in it when the water was draining out — Her nick name was Gubba and She wowed me one evening by sliding and calling out that she was in Her Gubba Habitat.

  2. A beautiful, poignant shared moment, beautifully shared.
    I have seen these kinds of moments pass between my wife and my daughter and it is lovely to see this treasure made into treasure.

Thoughts? I love those.

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