One evening mama stood behind my son, holding his vocabulary list in one arthritic hand. He sat at the kitchen table, his pencil hovering over a blank sheet of lined paper.
“Butterfly,” she read and raised her eyebrows at me and gave a proud shake of the head that said, “Watch me teach the child!”
My son wrote carefully and looked up at his grandmother.
My son wrote and looked up when he finished writing.
“Lava.” She smiled.
My son put his pencil to the paper but didn’t write.
“Lava,” she repeated.
My son squished his face up in concern.
“Lava, LAVA!” his grandmother repeated. She looked up at me and held her palms out to me with the vocabulary list pinched between the curves of her fingers. Her patience was wearing thin, and my son was fretting.
“Grandma…?” started my son.
“La – va.” Encouraged mama.
“No, grandma, ‘lava’ isn’t on our spelling list for this week.”
“Are you trying to trick me into letting you see the list?! No way, I know all the tricks. Lava!”
“Mama, let me take a look at the list.”
Butterfly, cocoon….oh…. there it was, the problem word, “larva.”
“Sweetheart, I think the word is ‘larva.’ Give that a try.”
With smug satisfaction, my son wrote the word, and mama put her hands on her hips, saying, with her strong Maine accent, “Well, I guess SOMEBODY will just have to speak a little more clearly.”