A Reading Story Chapter 4

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After I had exhausted every book I could get my hands on that mentioned a girl named Betsy, I read the whole series of Oz books. The earliest ones I read had belonged to my mother. This one, my favorite, was a Christmas present when I was 9. I usually received a book on Christmas, and it was generally my favorite present.

Ozma was a princess, long before Disney princesses ran rampant over the culture. She was brave and good and kind. Better yet, she was able to recognize creatures that had been turned into stone by the evil witch. She then could touch them and they would spring back to live. This was very encouraging to me and I read those sections over and again.The Oz books were the only pure fantasy I enjoyed. In general, I liked books about real children.

I am writing this series of entries in the hopes that my readers will think back about their own reading lives. I enjoy hearing about what people are currently reading, but I often wonder what they read as children.

Tomorrow we meet resourceful English children.

Really Listening to Children

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Lately everywhere I go I see adults dragging children around while talking on their cellphones. Sometimes the child is in a stroller, sometimes in a shopping cart, sometimes across the table in a fast food restaurant. The child is there, often talking, and the adult is either talking on the phone, texting on the phone, or looking at the phone.

In this photo,  I am four years old and I have the undivided attention of two family friends. They are taking me seriously. They are each focusing their gaze on me as I talk and they listen. I understood, without being explicitly told, that I mattered. I grew up assuming that what I had to say was important. It might not be well received later in my life–and often it wasn’t–but I held and still hold the conviction that my voice matters.

Children are little for a very short time, no matter how endless it seems when we are mothers to small children. They chatter nonstop, and we often wish for a little silence from them. Ironically enough, when they are older, we long to hear them say anything to us besides the monosyllabic responses of “fine,” “no,” and the extended sentence of “you wouldn’t understand.”

Listen whenever you have a chance. It can be life changing for a child. It was for me.

In The Good Old Summertime

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My grandparents had a farm house in western New York State where we visited several different summers. The highlight when I was 11 was swimming in Wiscoy Creek which ran over a little old dam. We had no adult supervision and the town kids swam, splashed, pushed each other over the dam and held each other under water. Some older kids convinced me that a snapping turtle lurked in the deepest water.

Many years later, I took my husband to see this stellar swimming spot. The water fell peacefully over a several inch high dam and my husband said I must have been idealizing the past. Fortunately, this photo arrived a few months ago in a collection sent by my brother. Clearly in the intervening 50 years, silt had filled in the swimming hole, but my recollection was accurate.

As for the snapping turtle..Men fishing in the creek told me that there had never been such a turtle there. The men looked to be my age. Perhaps they were once the boys who had told me about the dangerous turtle!