Posted by: gdevi | September 14, 2015

The Church of the Suspended Syntax

On Mondays, after I finish teaching, at 3:30 I tutor kindergarten and middle school kids as a volunteer at the after school program run by the Salvation Army. Since i teach English, i work on reading and writing with the kids. It was so interesting today–today I worked with two third grade girls, M and L, on their math homework sheets: multiplication and commutative property. My daughter is in the 10th grade and I remember all of this from years ago when she was in third grade, and even farther back when I was in kindergarten in India. Anyway, it was so interesting–you can tell so clearly how children’s brains are wired. Both of them were so quick to grasp the concepts and were soon making rows and columns and arrays and counting and writing the equations. It was very very sweet. L was a sweet serious child with glasses. She also had reading homework, and while I was helping her read Suzy Kline’s Horrible Harry series — we read Horrible Harry and the Ant Invasion — what is invasion, L asked me. It is when ants come into your house and take over everything. Like they crawl everywhere, L asked me. Yes, what do you think of that, I asked L. That’s nasty, L said. But how do they get in a jar, she asked me. Good question, I said. At one point, one of the characters says that she wants to eat banana yogurt. Suddenly, L turned to me and said, yummy, that’s making me hungry, and she stuck out her tongue. Childhood is such a unique state. In my Linguistics class today, my student K asked me just before we started class–I was downloading the slides for the day and the students were all sitting there talking amongst themselves–suddenly K. called out to me, Dr. Devi, will you marry me? I paused from downloading slides and told her, No, K., I don’t think I can. I am almost 50 years old; I have a 15 year old child; I have a mortgage, and I am married. I don’t think you want to marry me. Sorry, I said.  No, Dr. Devi, K. said, I didn’t mean as in marrying you. But will you like marry me, officiate in my marriage, when I get married? Of course, yes, K., I told her: I’d be delighted. You know, according to Hindu metaphysics, as your “guru,” — your teacher — I am equal to your parents and to God.  So by the power vested in me by English Linguistics, I would be delighted to pronounce you married. Maybe I should get ordained in the Church of the Suspended Syntax, my favorite sentence type.

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