How do you respond when you realize someone stole something that you value deeply? After all, having your space invaded and your possession stolen can be overwhelming, and if you want it back, sometimes you must dig deep to find the strength to get it. I have found that strength, and the time has come for me to indeed take back what’s mine.
The thing that was taken was not a physical item. If my wallet were stolen, I could cancel my credit cards. If my coat were taken, I might be a bit chilly, but I’d survive. And, if my car were stolen, I could find a way to get another.
No, what was stolen was bigger. It was also much more important to me.
It was a word.
The crime was discovered one morning in the kitchen. I had the pancakes grilling and the coffee percolating when my 21-year-old daughter, home from college, walked in wearing her new bathrobe. It was one of those spa-style robes, plush and warm and comfy-cozy. It was also very white. She was working the hoodie, and she looked adorable.
I smiled as I looked at her, and, with the love that only a dad who’s been tied around his little girl’s finger since the day she was born would understand, said, “Look at you. You’re a snowflake.”
Her reaction was a combination of sadness and anger.
“Dad, I can’t believe you called me that,” she said. “Don’t you know what a snowflake is?”
Yes, I did, and that’s why I called her one.
But as I was about to learn, someone had stolen my word and given it a new definition. On television, talk radio and social media, people were using the word to describe anyone who disagreed with their point of view.
The Oxford Dictionaries added that meaning in January, saying it was a derogatory label for an overly sensitive or easily offended person, or one who expects special treatment because of supposedly unique characteristics.
Imagine, my precious word being used in such an ugly way! The anger that listeners and readers felt toward those they called snowflakes was intense. But the anger I felt when I realized that my word was stolen was strong, too.
What did I mean when I called my daughter a snowflake? I meant that she was beautiful. I meant that she brought joy to those who saw her. I meant that she was unique and that, try as they might, she was someone who could never be copied. I meant that even though she might blend in with the crowd, she’d always have characteristics that belonged only to her. I meant that I loved her.
I could’ve been disappointed by her reaction, could’ve apologized, and could’ve removed snowflake from my collection of complimentary vocabulary. If I did, however, the thieves would’ve won. And that was not going to happen on my watch.
So I proudly stood up and took my word back.
“Snowflake” is mine and I will use it with my definition whenever I want — right now, for example.
To everyone’s incredible sons and daughters, each one of you is an individual who will never be duplicated. Each one of you has gifts and abilities and talents that only you can share to make the world a better and happier place.
And, I am thrilled that my word is safely back home with its rightful owner so that I can confidently say out loud that each one of you is a snowflake.
Reader Peter Freeman lives in Malverne.