Today is American Thanksgiving and I’m thankful for so many things, but in this moment, I feel especially thankful for the way that language gives me access to my daughter’s inner life, to her imagination and to the ways that she is growing as writer. After bedtime stories, I returned to my familiar evening working spot at the dining room table and I discovered that at some point between arriving home from our dinner with friends and her bath, she had built a private space for herself in the corner. I could tell it was private because there was a sign to warn me. “Cotion” [caution] the sign states in big letters. “This is a privat space and it belongs to Miss Z.I. Hagerman. If you don’t know the password you will have to ask an adult. If your a villain that wants to steal from this privat space then to bad because Miss Z.I. Hagerman is a trained fighter.” The message is accompanied by a picture of three girls, one of whom seems to be shooting firebolts from her hands, another of whom seems to be casting a spell and a third who is drumming feverishly, perhaps to scare away would-be intruders?
I love this for so many reasons. First, I love that she insisted on creating her cautionary message using both words and images. Clearly, if the words don’t scare you away, then the imagery of fierce (though rather scantily clad?) girls shooting firebolts into the air should set you straight. Invade at risk of your own peril.
I love that she’s planning for contingencies. There is a password (de rigeur for all private spaces) but the instruction to ask an adult is suspiciously contrived to address the inevitable issue of the younger sister. Clearly, the pesky three-year-old will be directed to “the adults” who, incidentally, don’t know the password…which means said pest will be denied access.
I also love her use of the formal register and the way that she refers to herself using her first and middle initials. This rhetorical move tells me so much about how she understands herself and the ways that she can be powerful. It shows me how she has come to understand the ways that we communicate important messages to others. Plus, I love that she has backed up her “business” persona — that she is a trained fighter, clearly prepared for any and all villains who might find themselves in the need of a throw pillow and/or “The Human Body Book” [the two things presently stashed in the private corner]. Here, I suspect she’s channeling her inner Jedi.
Tomorrow, this space will become the focus of play. I wonder how the language of the sign will change? I wonder what new messages will be added to the message string. I wonder how she will defend her space to intruders — both real and imagined. Yes. I’m really thankful for all of this.