Thursday, March 14, 2013

Eat Your Grammar

Eating umble pie

     When I was a little girl I did not like liver. I could never get over the way it looked or tasted. In those days liver was the best source of iron my parents knew of. They said it was good for us. It was also cheap, so it showed up on our dinner plates once a month.

     Mom fried it with lots of onions to make it taste better, but it didn’t.  I remember cutting my child-sized portion into microscopic pieces and trying to disguise the taste by shoving one piece into a mouthful of boiled potato. It never worked; I could still taste the liver. So I waited until everyone had left the table, and then I would slip a few pieces into my apron pocket and scatter the rest on the floor hoping the cat would eat them.

     The cat didn’t like liver either.

     By the time I was in college I had discovered iron supplements. I bought a bottle of vitamins plus iron and when the school cafeteria served liver, I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a clear conscience.

     I have often wished that someone had invented a supplement I could take for grammar. You see, I did not like grammar either. I could never get over the way a sentence looked when it was all cut up and laying on the plate. What was I supposed to do with all of those pieces?

     I should have seen it coming, after all, it was called grammar school, wasn’t it? But it didn’t end with grammar school, and by the time I took Advanced Grammar and Composition my senior year of college there was no place to hide my deficiency; no apron pocket or hungry cat under the table to conceal my serious lack of affinity. I studied long and hard for the final exam--it felt worse than eating raw liver with no onions or boiled potatoes--and yet I barely passed.

     Still, all these years later I continue the struggle to understand those predicates, commas and dangling modifiers, the livery of grammar, because even though it is one of those things I will never acquire a taste for, I know it is necessary to the health of my writing. So don’t be surprised if you hear me say to my grandchildren: “Eat your grammar—it’s good for you!”

 But don’t eat your grandma.

artist Kate Greenway

1 comment:

  1. My father knew how to prepare liver in a way that smelled so good. It always tempted me, yet I never liked the taste or texture. There are other things I did not like as a child that I do like now. Mustard, mushrooms, and sauerkraut all appeal to me today, but not liver.