Thursday, June 13, 2019

Little Cuter wondered what books I liked as a child.  Answering her was a lovely trip down memory lane.

Arlene and I read Little Women over and over and over again in the 5th grade. I wanted to be Jo March, sitting in my attic, writing a book, twirling my long brown hair as I thought. I wanted to marry Max Baer, the older, smarter, wiser, exotic, teacher. I wanted Laurie as my best friend, next door, loving me in a way I couldn't return, aiming his ardor toward my younger sister, a more perfect match for his sensibilities.

I lived in her life for a very long time.

The Pink Motel was a book from the Weekly Reader Book Club. The cover was pink and the mystery inside piqued my interest in the genre that has lasted for 60 years. The old lady who lived in the motel the kids and their parents inherit has become my role model. She was silly and engaging, unusual and crafty, willing to listen to the kids as if they were her peers.

Plus, she believed in eating dessert first. That has always seemed practical to me. You'll always have room for all the sweets if you do it that way.

I read Les Miserables in the 5th grade, too. I plodded through the unabridged edition, amazing my peers and flummoxing my teacher. I couldn't understand the viciousness of the pursuit - he had a hungry child, for crying out loud. That injustice sat at the root of my Social Work practice.

I had a collection of Washington Irving stories, a beautiful hard bound copy of fairy tales from Shirley Temple, and Favorite Poems Old and New. Those were my long term go-to's, the books I could pick up when there was nothing else to read. I loved the long form poems, like The Highwayman, and Edgar Allen Poe's Annabelle Lee, and all the limericks, and e e cummings, who amused me before I realized just how subversive he was.

I remember Gr'ma and Bubba reading me Snip, Snap, and Snurr and Hans Brinker and The Silver Skates... and is it a real memory that those images seem to take place on cold winter afternoons?

I liked reading Dr. Seuss and A A. Milne's Pooh stories and poetry to Uncle Jeff and Aunt Jeannie when we were very young. James James Morrison Morrison Weatherbee George DuPree's lost mother story was one of the first poems I memorized. It ws only when I read it aloud to 5th graders last year that I recognized how sad a story it is.

I read all the blue hardbound biographies of famous people as children that lined my 2nd or 3rd grade classroom; I can still see the pen and ink illustration of Jane Addams imagining Hull House. I wanted to be her. I read about Albert Schweitzer and Tom Dooley (whose works never revealed his CIA connection) and Florence Nightingale - helpers all.

Were there books about adventurers or entrepreneurs? Perhaps they existed and I ignored them. Looking back over what I've written, though, perhaps I sought out those stories that felt safe, that applauded family, that comforted.

Or maybe those are the ones I remember.

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