Her white hair is wreathed in words. They surround her work space even now, and accompany her at day’s end.
She can still feel the thrill that shot through her four-year old body the day she discovered the word for “the day before today.” That must have also marked her discovery of “the day after today.”
Sometimes she made mistakes. In the second grade she was singing along with “Or would you rather be a mule,” when she changed it to “rather be a queer.” She sang it in front of her teacher, who assured others that she didn’t know what the word meant. She didn’t.
Expanding her vocabulary sometimes led to embarrassment, as in the fourth grade when she proudly announced that Francis Scott Key was her fiancée (not ancestor).
She still had things to learn after high school graduation, when she sent The Little Boy with a Dog’s Tail off to a children’s poetry magazine. A kindly editor returned it to her, advising that little boys have something known as castration anxiety and would get nervous about a tail falling off.
It was probably inevitable that she taught Sallie, her firstborn, to read at two. Years later a neighbor confessed to having secretly put Sallie to the test, which she passed. There was insufficient time for the education of the next three babies. Sallie does not appear to have been harmed by the experience.