As toddlers begin to grow, they learn that everything has a name and that names are made up of letters. They begin to recognize their letters and see them in the world around them; words in a book, signs on the road, names of people. Before they recognize words, they recognize symbols and logos.
I remember Braden, at a very young age, recognizing a Starbuck's iced coffee cup on the counter of a store and saying, 'That's Mommy's Coffee.' Too young to read, he recognized the logo and the countless times I repeated, 'Please don't touch, this is Mommy's coffee.' And he knew what it said.
Now, at three, Braden is piecing together his letters and recognizing words. Those same picture books that were read to him as a baby, he's able, to some degree, to begin reading to himself. He recognizes that M-O-M is Mom, and D-A-D is Dad. He knows the sounds of each letter and is beginning to phonetically piece them together to sound out words.
And this is how it begins. Our lives go from picture books to chapter books, as we navigate the world around us.
Recently, I find myself feeling much like a newborn again. As I look around my world, nothing looks familiar anymore. I see words, but don't know what they say. I see things, but don't know what they are. I am once again trusting the people around me to help me navigate my new world.
Today, I went to the grocery store for the first time and I felt lost and helpless. I felt like a newborn must feel in the early months of life, how a toddler feels before he begins to read, how my parents must have felt immigrating to New York many years ago.
How do we make sense of a world that is so foreign to us? Like babies, we take it all in. We look, we smell, we touch and we taste until we know that a ball is a ball, and that it bounces and is round. It may take a few tries, but eventually we learn.
So, for now, my life is like a picture book, and I'm taking it all in.