She’d been writing articles about softball leagues and fishing gear and how to buy a barbecue grill, so when she looked up and saw the snow falling, the sight perplexed her. For a moment, she’d been lost in the promise of spring, and the dancing flakes and the chill in her feet felt like the ultimate betrayal. A joke on her, a slave to the almighty editorial calendar, always having to think three months ahead. If only real time could move like that. Fly past the difficult moments, the painful confrontations. The grief. The grief never moved. It sat like an uninvited guest who pawed every knickknack and drank your good scotch but would not take the hint to leave. Feeling leaden, she rose from her chair, stretched the creaks from long-suffering muscles and tendons, and put the kettle on. There, she felt grounded, realigned in time. But too fast, so fast she felt a bit lightheaded, and gripped the handle more tightly. He’d always been the one to put the kettle on. He saw to her comfort, poking his head into her room to see if she was too cold or too hot, wanted something from the store, or a cup of tea. She’d snapped at him, then. For taking her out of whatever she was writing, wrenching her out of the focus she’d needed to produce five hundred words on a myriad of topics, for which she was paid a ridiculously small sum. Articles that were easily forgotten; money that was quickly spent. Again she regretted each sharp look, each groan of frustration, each shouted “What?” when he’d tap-tap on the door, or peer in like a small child, hoping and not hoping to disturb her. Time she would never get back. Apologies she would never get to deliver. The snow had stolen him. Because she was living her editorial calendar life, she hadn’t responded to his whisper that he was going into town. She hadn’t answered the phone. Didn’t know he’d gotten stuck. And only learned about the accident when the police banged on her door. She slapped the kettle on the stove and, mouth frozen in anger, shoved her feet into his boots, always left by the laundry room, and stumbled out into the winter that also would not leave. She cursed the snow, the sky, the icicles hanging from the eaves like a Yeti’s fangs. She snapped the closest one she could reach and hurled it javelin style toward the trees, as if this was a monster she could stab. But it fell short and only landed with a muffled “ssshhh” halfway between the wellhead and the small red maple he had planted last spring. Crying tears of anger and frustration and loss, she shuffled toward the tree, stroked the bare branches with her bare hands, and sank to her knees in the snow. “I’m sorry.” She said it louder. Then she aimed it to the sky, and the only response was the fat, icy flakes that painted her face and sifted into her hair. When she could no longer feel her fingers, she went inside, and reheated the kettle, and began to write about winter. And snow. And icicles like monsters’ teeth. Spring would come, in time.
Whether it’s the special treats, presents, traditions, videos of cats climbing Christmas trees, or the shiny tinselly delight of it all, the collective winter holiday season can bring out the child in us. Which made me think of a bunch of childlike and childish words for being in a state of newness, where we are wet behind the ears and smell faintly of talcum powder and New Car.
- Childlike: An adult who has not lost his or her innocent sense of wonder at the world. Think Dr. Seuss, Mr. Rogers, or Robin Williams off his meds.
- Childish: A more negative connotation, drawing up references to “childish behavior” discouraged by parents, such as pouting and selfishness, or how some adults act. Especially on reality television programs or on Black Friday.
- Juvenile: From Latin. On the surface, this word refers to “one who is youthful.” It has also taken on the negative connotation of juvenile or immature behavior. Especially on reality television programs or Black Friday.
- Neophyte: From the Greek words meaning “newly planted”, first recorded use 1590. Has a bit more sophisticated ring than “newbie.” Does not refer to any of Keanu Reeves’ battle scenes from The Matrix. Sorry. I know how badly you want it to.
- Noob or N00b: From the world of online gaming and internet forum slang, short for “newbie” but used in a more derisive fashion. Say, a newbie who refuses to learn the rules of a group, blusters around obnoxiously pretending they know what they’re doing but ends up wiping out your landing party with an enchanted hand grenade.
- Green: From Old English, meaning young or raw, also gullible. Greenhorn (a young buck, elk, ram or other horned beast just sprouting his horns) is another variant, a slang term applied to a newly arrived member of a group who hasn’t yet learned the secret handshake. As in, “That greenhorn thought Dr. Seuss made house calls.”
- Novice: One Latin form of this word, novicius, was used in reference to newly acquired slaves. Odd that it’s also used to describe someone in a religious order. Coincidence? Discuss.
- Apprentice: from Old French, “one who is learning.” Perhaps Donald Trump could apprentice to someone who has some humility, and maybe hair styling experience.
- Amateur: “One who has a taste for (something)” from French and Latin. Amateurish is an entirely different matter. Even if you are an amateur, you want to avoid looking amateurish. Context is also important here. While amateur athletes are revered, amateur brain surgeons are shunned.
- Tyro: From Middle Latin, meaning “young soldier or recruit.” Not to be confused with “Tyra,” which according to the Urban Dictionary, means to throw a tantrum if things don’t go your way. You know, like a child. But not “childlike.”