Anyone who has ever had a chance to talk with Oscar for more than a minute or two has been struck by his verbal skills. It is my contention that everyone is imbued with certain gifts–and if you’re lucky, they reveal themselves early to attentive adults who are able and willing to cultivate them. One of Oscar’s is clearly his vocabulary–his interest in and ability to understand (and pronounce) words. He’s the boy who at four years old would ask me, “So, what words did you teach your high school students today?” and would not relent until I had pronounced, defined, and used in context at least one or two from that week’s list. He lights up when he calls his brother “puerile,” when he categorizes the trees bordering our backyard as “deciduous,” and when he describes life for the early settlers as “arduous.” Words are his thing. Ask him what Edgar’s “thing” might be and he’d tell you that Edgar is good at riding horses, karate, tumbliing, trying new foods, running, standing on his head . . . the list would go on. But never would “language” make it on to his list. Oscar doesn’t mind that Edgar may be talented in all these areas as long as he has dibs on the violin and vocabulary.
Cut to tonight’s scene in the car on the way home from their grandparents’ house: August had fallen fast asleep, so Oscar decided to pass the time, instead of cooing at his baby brother, he would pester Edgar.
Edgar had had enough and said, “Oscar, stop antagonizing me!”
Oscar sat up, stopped whatever it was he was doing, and said to me, “What did Edgar just say?”
Every English teacher gene in me was on fire!
I said, “Oscar, he told you to stop antagonizing him.”
Oscar, incredulous, replied, “‘Antagonize’? What does that mean?”
I explained, “It means to bother.”
Oscar, horrified, said, “So he used it correctly?”
It was dark, so I could not see Edgar’s face. But the fact that he told his brother to “stop antagonizing” him a sum total of five additional times in the remaining three minutes of our trip home tells me he was proud.
Oscar’s parting remark? “Well, then, I guess I have misplaced my language skills, haven’t I?”
I’m thinking not. Nor your ability to work a metaphor.
Hang in there, Oscar. You’re going to enjoy your conversations with your brother a whole lot more now–and learn a new word or two in the process.