Words. They’re everywhere. I see dead worms. Worms, words, worms, words. Redrum. Nobody ever tells you when you’re about to learn how to read that the entire world will now be entering your brain. Feel free to move about its cabin.
I remember the moment I learned how to read, the moment it all came together. I was sitting alone at the breakfast table as usual, my older sisters and brother already off to school, my mom in the bathroom, my dad at work. My yellow jammies catching on the edges of the phone books I was sitting on. Milk in my cereal bowl.
Suddenly, one particular cereal box on the table seemed to grow larger than the rest. It most certainly attracted my attention. It was orange with blue writing: Kix, my favorite.
Hold on! Did I just know “Kix”? Had I read it? I looked at the cereal box again: Kix. Kix. Kix Kix Kix! I had read it!
I jumped down from my stack of phone books and ran from the kitchen through the living room to the bathroom. My mom was in there and the door was closed. She didn’t need to be disturbed, and I knew this was not a good reason, but…knock knock knock. “Guess what!” I called out to my mom.
“What?” she said through the door. I suddenly missed her very much. It seemed like she’d been in there forever. She did this every morning so I shouldn't be upset, but this morning I missed her especially. I had important news.
“I can read!” I cried out.
“What?” my mother said again.
“I CAN READ!” I shouted to the brown-painted hinges of door. “I read Kix and you know what?” I knew better than to wait for an answer. “I bet that other cereal is Life! I KNOW IT IS!”
Waiting outside the bathroom door was no longer an option. I raced back to the table where the other open cereal boxes sat. I looked at them then in the same way that I still look at certain men. I concentrated.
“Life,” I said out loud. “Life.” That sounded right. Yes, that is what the older kids said! I tried another one, a harder one—my mom’s favorite. It was sitting on the counter, away from our boxes. It was more expensive and we weren’t supposed to eat it.
“Qu,” I started, standing in the sunshine in my sleeper. “Qu.” It was a sound I knew. Queen. Quick.
“QUAKER!” I screamed. That little box of cereal—smaller and always neater than ours—came to life in that moment. It was my mother’s cereal. “Quaker Oats,” I said.
And then I knew everything. I knew if we had Crest or Colgate—did my mother want me to read those words to her again? No, she didn’t. I knew if we were coming to a STOP sign, when we were passing the BIG BOY, and ultimately that my dad worked for the U.S. Forest Service, not the “For-Service”, whatever that was in my pre-reading mind, not that it made me any prouder of him than I already was.
I had always wanted to know more.