(I wrote this piece for My 500 Words in response to the instruction to write without using the words “that” or “very”)
As much as our world has grown in knowledge and compassion, there are some topics that just aren’t discussed in polite company. Regardless of your religious, political or romantic outlook, some concepts are best left off the table in the interests of our common discourse. By their very nature, they divide.
You may ponder, “Is it a good idea to mince and pick around such subjects to avoid getting straight to the point.” You may ask, “Are we as a society still so backward, so bereft and fundamental that we can’t handle the truth?” I would vouch on some truths, yes. Yes, we are not ready to talk with love and heartfelt compassion to a problem so overwhelming and present it hides in our weary hearts.
Now that we have come this far, I fear you’ll judge me when I disclose my truth. I’ve never discussed this with anyone, though I draw courage from this fine company and hope we’ll remain friends, that this won’t change what we share together, that you’ll accept my ponderous secret.
For beyond my roles as mother, wife, friend, stepmother, grandmother, daughter and sister, I have a secret job, a private passion: I love the word “that.” I am its defender.
This slack word, a hallmark of imprecision, astounds me. Along with its cousin “very,” they’ve formed a junta, pushing superior words to a precarious edge. Profligate and fecund, they’ve stormed the castle, eaten the royal family and made their squat presence known, a Honey Boo Boo Child thrust on society, something new and maybe not even wholesome. Stolid and slow thinking, complacent in their worth, they’ve Kardashianed our world with tweets insignificant.
It’s hard to say the best course of action in the face of this ever-increasing barrage. These rodents of incomplete thought that haunt the cellars and attics of our days, should we lure them off? Leash them? Poison them? Can we Pied Piper them away?
Ah, but what to my wondering mind should appear but an alternate solution. What if we just love them in situ, innocent and feasting, bless their grubby hands as they grease-smear our creations, see these humble harbingers as the first step in a path to Grace, and welcome with gladness a deeper conversation with self or other.
When you write “that,” my mind explodes with possibilities. I don’t grab a hunting rifle, a net and a search party, but rather, put the kettle on for tea, stoke the fire and grab my figurative pipe. For in “that” is a raw conversation unfolding. In “very” is a beginning to an extreme. With either, I may share with you or you with me. In quiet or robust conversation, we will hunt together, find these hobgoblins of common parlance, catch them with kindness and bring them home. Together, we’ll unearth a whole new tomorrow, original and glistening, fresh from the box.
No words were harmed in the writing of this piece.