Monday, April 9, 2007

Say What?

This is a story I wrote for a writing workshop I had to attend, the years ago, to get my current teaching job. It is based on a true story.

As with most families these days, our family is always on the move. My husband and I work different schedules, so the days when we can all be together as a family are sporadic. The days that we do have together are cherished. One day, Don, A., and I were relaxing at home when Aunt Jenny, my husband's sister, came by for a rare visit. As the adults talk, three year old A. runs excitedly to her bedroom to get something she just has to share with her aunt.

"Aunt Jenny, Aunt Jenny! Play ponies with me! You can be the sister, I'll be the Mommy and the baby."

Jenny takes a pony and tries to play with A., and talk with her brother at the same time.

A., as the Mommy pony, "What's the matter baby?"

"I'm consternated, Mommy," A. says as the baby pony.

This snaps the adults out of their conversation, startled by the surety with which she uses this unfamiliar word.

"What did you say honey?" I ask A.

"Consternated," she replies.

"Do you mean constipated?" I question quizzically.

"No, consternated!" she says with the exasperated tone of one long troubled by another's ignorance.

"Is that even a real word? I've never heard it before," I say turning to Don and Jenny.

"It's a real word. I've seen it used before, but I can't remember where," my husband confirms.

"I haven't either," responds Jenny.

"What does it mean sweetie?" I inquire.

"It's when you go rrr," as she stomps her foot and shakes her fist.

Being a teacher, I run to get a dictionary and quickly flip through the pages.

"Ah, here it is! Consternation means frustration. She used it correctly! I can't believe it! Two of us have never even heard of it and she defined it correctly. honey, where did you learn this word?"

"I don't know Mommy."

A. continues playing obliviously as the adults work through their shock at a three year old's vocabulary.

Eternally curious, I set out to discover where my daughter picked up this unusual turn of phrase. I ask her preschool teacher if they have used consternated in class, they reply that they haven't. I then ask the rest of the teachers at the school if they are familiar with the word that is causing me so much bewilderment. None have used it in front of their students and most have not heard of it before. I guess how A. learned such a large word will forever be a mystery.

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