I have this wonderful relationship with grammar. I compare my love of grammar to my love of the turtleneck. When I was young I went to a private school and in the winter I had to wear turtlenecks and sweaters. These turtlenecks climbed up to my chin and confined me to my chair. This is the same feeling I had when I was taught the rules of grammar. I suddenly felt chained and imprisoned to a place that stifled my imagination.
When I was 6 years old, I fell in love with words. I loved to hear stories read to me and wanted desperately to learn how to read on my own. It was a struggle for me, but my favorite teacher Mrs. Hisey spent weeks with me after school showing me letters and explaining their purpose. When I finally learned to read I couldn’t get enough. Going to the library was my favorite past-time and every chance I got I was reading stories. When I learned to write, I discovered that I loved to create stories from my imagination. I could look at someone and as I watched them I could envision them in a story with dragons and princesses. These stories always made my heart soar and take me to places where I was never alone.
In junior high I learned all about grammar and what it meant to my writing. The first paper I turned in that was covered in red was devastating. Tears streamed down my face and I thought the teacher hated my story. I was told it was my sentence structure and my grammar that were all wrong. It was then I began to learn about fragment sentences, run-on sentences, clauses, syntax, word order and so on. It was hard enough learning spelling rules and all the exceptions; now I had this torturous task of understanding the mechanics of writing. I began to hate writing. I could grasp most concepts quite easily, but some like comma, semi-colon, and colon usage just made me want to rip out my hair. I could never remember where and when to use them.
In grade school I began to grow physically and always it seemed I would outgrow my turtlenecks before I could get new ones. I loathed turtlenecks, the way they would touch the bottom of your chin and be so tight around your neck; it felt like a choke chain. Everyday during school I would yank on the fabric surrounding my neck until it would stretch out enough for me to breathe. It always felt like I was confined inside that turtleneck and I was not allowed out until I got home from school.
Reading opened me up to a beautiful world of fairy tales and adventures. This enhanced my rather dull existence and seemed to make me happier than I could ever imagine being. I loved going to new worlds and learning about places that were real and imagined. These rules would be okay if it weren’t for all of the exceptions to the rules. In school you learn basic rules, stand in line, raise your hand, say please and thank you. These are simple enough to remember; however, when I learned about these English language rules my head would spin and I would get nauseous. Confusion began with I before e except after c, with some exceptions; goose is geese but moose are not meese; comma before and except when it doesn’t call for it etc. My brain started to spin and my heart started to race. What I found to be one of my favorite pastimes began to be a nightmare in high school. I had trouble keeping the rules straight and my once great stories with smiley faces became red ink bleeding through white paper nightmares.
Let me first explain the way my brain works. I was given a brain which is wired backwards and upside down with a fancy name of dyslexia. I find it to be a gift because I can see connections where others cannot. I can see there are more sides to a problem and more ways to understand the world which creates imagines and colors in my mind which are not just black and white. I understand the world is not a simple place and complexities climb into every nook and cranny. Exceptions exist in the English language more often than in rules of etiquette. Perhaps the creators of teh English language had a monumental sense of humor and thought it would be a glorious game to have fun with mere mortals. I imagine that these creators of rules and exceptions lacked the concept of insightful investigation of life. I belief they lacked an artistic ability to dance freestyle and only understood the waltz. I have come to the realization that they loved to torture others perhaps because they were tortured souls who failed to understand what it was like to dance alone freely and uninhibited by rules. And. . . also, perhaps, they also wore turtlenecks.
In this day and age where we no longer wear turtlenecks that choke us and we communicate through text messages on cellphones, and use acronyms instead of full words; maybe it is time to relax the grammar rules. . . . just a little. I am not saying we should be able to make sentences that are not in the right order or start spelling phonetically correct; however easier that would make the world. Just maybe, we could not have so many exceptions to the rules that it prevents the imagination from taking a long adventurous trip to a far off land where no one has ever been.