I’m a grad student for the second time in my life so I read a lot. I remember the first time I was able to read on my own, many decades ago…
The grimy Chinese restaurant looked like the kind of place my mother would say was full of cucarachas. We were stopped at a red light, me in the backseat and my parents in the front. They were oblivious to the dirty eatery but to me it shone brightly because I could read the sign, all by myself: “Chinese Food – Take out & Deliver”. At that moment, it was as if the letters in a bowl of alphabet soup floated to the top of the murky broth and assembled into words I recognized.
It was the moment when a movie goes from black and white to blazing color and becomes a musical. I was the star and the words around me composed my song lyrics: “Two slices and soda, yah, Play Lotto here, yah yah!”
My parents would stop bickering in the front seat and my dad’s impatient drumming on the steering wheel would become a jazzy beat. I would step out of the car to dance right there along Steinway Street, car horns beeping happily, pedestrians and shopkeepers twirling me around.
“I can read!” I would sing.
“She can read!” they would shout.
“I. CAN. READ!” I’d sing from atop the bus, arms and face lifted skyward, car horns punctuating the grand finale and signaling the light had turned green.