Yarn is a continuous length of interlocked fibers, which in deference to Rand Paul's "leave me the hell alone" response to his plagiarism, I will state is the definition of yarn given by Wikipedia.
But in our house, yarn is something else. Yarn has become a kind of opaque and unlikely prism for the kind of unpredictable ways in which a young mind works -- and works against stereotypes and odds when it comes to a kid with dyslexia and language processing differences.
It starts with The 15 Year Old who has significant difficulties sequencing information and connecting abstract ideas along development lines we call "normal," or so we THINK. And it extends into a scenario in which The 15 Year Old is afflicted with a sore throat/body tingling virus that was contracted when the weather turned and her high school classmates were a brew house of germs. The symptoms, said The 15 Year Old, were so annoying, that she sent herself to bed at the unusually early hour of 9:45 p.m., then proceeded to lay there, in the glow of her fish tank light, complaining with dramatic gusto about how she was tired, felt weird, but could not fall asleep.
"Just relax," we offered from where we were reading, trying to encourage The 15 Year Old to just take a chill and understand that sometimes you have to give over to not feeling good, to which she offered a rebuke and an alternative solution.
"I'm going to tell myself the world's most boring story, then maybe THAT will put me to sleep,'' she shouted in quasi-faux frustration mixed with a jokester's desire to, well, make noise and vocalize her displeasure at feeling blech.
If this "bedtime story" was meant to be for our amusement, she succeeded, but it was in some pretty unexpected ways, because the most boring story she decides to tell in order to induce slumber was ... The History of Yarn. In other words: A yarn about yarn.
In her recounting, The History of Yarn started out with an introduction of the main character, Bobby Wool, a sheep farmer somewhere in England who was left to his own devices about how to tend to these sheep when his father, Butch Wool, suddenly died. So Bobby Wool decides he's going to take the matted and tangled hair from his animals and make something called yarn, since what else does he have to do all day by himself in dreary England on his farm?
As all parents of 15 Year Olds might confess, there often tends to be an overwhelming urge to, well, basically IGNORE the loud and seemingly random rantings of teenagers, especially at night, when you've been listening all day to a vast array of complaints, excuses, tangents, requests for more food and tales of friends or schoolmates who have done something 1) dumb 2) stupid 3) reckless or 4) insane. It does get difficult to discern what is important information you must hear vs. blather.
Well, the instinct here was to dismiss The History of Yarn as exactly this kind of night-time blather -- noise aimed at "engaging" us in her terrible misery, except that the imagery The 15 Year Old was using immediately conjured a "Wallace & Gromit" claymation film, complete with toothy sheep succumbing to the enterprising grooming of Bobby Wool.
Suddenly, I found myself not trying to ignore the bleatings from down the hall, but instead, slowly starting to marvel at what seemed to me an uncanny conflagration of what first appeared to be random blather but instead was a creatively logical re-interpretation of counting sheep, only in this case, the counting of sheep was the spinning of an allegedly boring "yarn" about ... YARN.
It's been a week or so since The Story of Yarn was first told in our house, but I can't stop thinking about it, or about the way in which a mind works. In the case of this 15 Year Old, let's just say it will be a stretch to get through algebra, just as it will be a daunting task for her to ever conceive of and execute a term paper with the kinds of reading, interpretation, footnoting, argument building and "logical" conclusion drawing required in "normal" academic pursuits. But ever since The History of Yarn, the sleep-inducing yarn about sheep and yarn, I can't help but now see genius where I used to see difference, or, frankly, disability.
Art Linkletter was right. Kids say the darnedest things, even when they have trouble "linking letters."
Is a former political and sports columnist who worked great cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. She lives New York.