“Amelia, how do you spell, horrible?” Bella asks too close to her sister’s face, her eyes glistening for knowledge, before smiling and answering her own question, “is it hx6?” The smile is confident, showing all her teeth. I fight a laugh, observing from the dining table, a room from where they sit side by side playing play-doh. Bella’s curiosity is a star that burns day or night, and it brings a surplus of amusement to our household.

Amelia looks so lost staring back at her baby sister. So lost that’s she’s somehow transcended to another planet, seeing straight through Bella’s face. But it doesn’t deter Bella who is still eager and waiting. Her little hands now clasped below her chin add emphasis to the excitement dilating her eyes. Tell me, they plead.

Amelia (crash landing back on Earth) darts her eyes up, like the word horrible is on the ceiling and she can recite its letters if she stares at it long enough.

“H.o.r.r.i.b.l.e.” She enunciates each letter with conviction as she spells the word out. A prideful smirk coats her face and mine, nearly mirroring one another. Double consonant. Bravo, I think. Sometimes I forget Amelia’s only in 2nd grade, and it makes me oddly wonder if I’d smile by default if the word were derogatory. (I probably would, despite regretting it. A little.)

“What does that equal?” Bella has now left Earth. The facial features on the right side of her face rise together, and she even tilts her head like dogs do when they are intrigued or baffled by a sound. It’s cute, and a giggle bubbles out of my throat, nearly giving my eavesdropping away.

“Bella, it doesn’t equal anything.” Amelia sighs, heavily.

Bella turns away, her face in torment. Like she’s just been told her whole life is a lie. A bad one. It makes me wish I’d been videoing their exchange. Amelia has somehow in one breath, carrying five words, dismantled Bella’s belief system. Letters don’t equal anything, her mouth frowns.

A full-blown shudder starting at my scalp coils down my spine. At age four my daughter felt it—that nothing is more tragic than loving a belief for all that is not.

“The letters equal a word, Bellie.” I smile. Amelia opens her mouth to argue but thinks better of it, and Bella, with a wedge of disbelief between her eyebrows, retorts, “it doesn’t equal anything,” and quietly goes back to rolling play-doh.

How impressionable children are. I’m reminded of the responsibility we all bear when speaking (life and death are in the power of the tongue) because whether truth or fiction what you say often becomes gospel to children, and it’s difficult to unwind a belief for all it is not. (Bella went to bed still holding her sister’s words tightly to her.) #thoughtsfromthetable

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