Archive for May, 2001


May 8, 2001 Comments off

I have found that having children enlarges a person’s vocabulary. For example, I learned the word wick when April, my wife, came across it in a British children’s book she was reading our daughters last summer. The garden was wick in the spring, the book said, so Grace, who is 6, asked, “What’s wick mean?” There were enough clues in the passage for April to show that wick means lively, full of life, bursting with renewed life.

The children are much better linguists than I am. I probably would have forgotten that wick means “full of life” if they hadn’t worked it into one of their games a day or two later. I watched them as Grace and her younger sister, Miriam, ran back and forth across the front lawn that day. “The girls are wick,” Grace paused to say. “The girls are very, very wick. Don’t you wish you were as wick as we are?” she asked, and then she ran on.

One evening this spring our neighbor, Mrs. D, was in her side yard reading a novel in the sunlight. The girls picked a fistful of new herbs for her as a surprise, then hustled back home looking for some new adventure. I was muttering to myself about how to finish the brick edging on the little piece of garden we have beside the house. Last summer I bought the bricks and put most of them in place, but I ran into a chunk of cement about a foot and a half long near the old coal bin door. I hammered and hammered on the cement in August, and chipped away some of it, but there is a lot of hammering left to do.

Even on the mildest spring evening I was not in the mood for going back to that chain gang hammering work. I placed a few loose bricks back in line and tamped down the soil beside them, and I jotted “cement-breaking” on the very bottom of my mental list of household chores. While I was muttering and tapping bricks in place the girls kept running by on quiet little missions to the back yard that I didn’t quite understand. In the time it took me to postpone, maybe even give up on, the edging project, my daughters had conceived and launched into and finished a project of their own.

Grace has become a steady writer in first grade, and in the front yard she had taken some pink and blue chalk and written “Happy Spring” in big, thick letters on the sidewalk. Then over the letters she and Miriam sprinkled herbs and flower petals from around the yard. That explained all the running back and forth that I hadn’t quite focused on while I was muttering to myself about the chunk of cement.

They had gathered peach-colored petals from the flowering quince, and daffodils and a few dandelion heads already bright yellow, and some red and orange tulip petals a little past their prime. They also picked some mint leaves and wild onion. Then they tore the larger petals and leaves into small pieces, and sprinkled all the colorful and aromatic bits over the chalk letters.

Just about then our friend Joe came by with Arjuna, the little curly-tailed dog who became blind over the winter. While Arjuna sniffed around the flowers and herbs and snorted into them, Grace and Miriam told Joe that passers-by should each take one, as a small gift to celebrate spring. Joe thanked them, and he and Arjuna headed off on their walk.

The girls ran into the house to fetch their mother, since she hadn’t seen their project yet. I looked over the big chalk letters and the herb and floral display and thought to myself, “The girls are wick, they are very, very wick.” And I wished I were as wick as they are. If you had walked by our house that evening, Miriam and Grace would have wished you too a happy spring with flowers and herbs sprinkled over for passers-by to take one as they go.

A Michiana Chronicles essay by Ken Smith, aired May 8, 2001 on 88.1 WVPE. Archived original and other radio essays by K. S.