Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The List

A friend of mine posted a list on Facebook today.  The list was a, not so neatly scrawled, list of book titles.  This list, he contended, codified his most precious memories.  Why? Because this was the list of titles of books, each recorded as he finished reading it aloud to his three children.  Now, he did not start the list until he'd been reading aloud to them for a few years, but on his list are 84 books.  By the time the last books were being read, his children were old enough to actually add the titles to the list.

I loved this post because it reminded me of my own childhood memories - memories of my mother reading aloud to the six of us, as we lay in our beds at night.  Mom sat on a foot stool in the hallway, and, by a dim light, read books, books that she deemed age appropriate, though I doubt others would have shared her judgment.  I recall, for instance, being six years old when Mom read, "The Moonstone," to us.  I have no recollection, whatsoever, of the book itself.  The story line is a complete mystery to me.  But I do recall learning the word, "melancholy" from that book.  The word sounded so odd to me.  I heard it as "melon - collie," my six year old brain trying to fathom what those two words could possibly mean when strung together.  When I asked her what it meant, she told us it meant, "sad."  I liked the sound of, "melancholy" better and never forgot that word.

Mom read to us several nights a week, reading a chapter or two from the book.  We were always left looking forward to the next night's chapter.  She ended each nightly reading with a passage from the Bible.  I'm afraid I thought of these as just more interesting stories, at that age.  Nevertheless, I heard, I'm sure, the majority of the Bible this way. 

Mom didn't just read aloud to her children, either.  We had no TV, though everyone we knew did.  My parents were not inclined to get one, believing there was a better way to raise children.  After all, they had not been raised with TV, and they turned out fine, didn't they?  So, our family did a lot of reading.  Mom read aloud to Dad at night, after we children were tucked into bed.  Dad sat on the couch, hooking his latest rug (Dad worked in the office all day and relaxed in the evening, making rugs).  Mom always read murder mysteries, who-done-it type books to Dad.  I don't recall her ever reading the Classics to him, but I recall  Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, and John Creasy's "the Toff."  In retrospect, I suppose it was a great way to ensure we kids went right to sleep, because we were allowed to listen to these stories too, leaving our bedroom doors open so we could hear, but we had to be very quiet.

On nights that Mom did not read to us, Dad usually sat with us in my brothers' bedroom, lights out, and we sang .  He ended each night with, "Danny Boy," "Over in Killarney," and "All Through the Night."  We'd then sing our prayers, before our parents kissed us goodnight.

By the time I was about 13, the whole gang singing in the dark in the boys' bedroom was a thing of the past, as was Mom's reading to us at night.  In those years, though, I'm sure Mom must have read us about the same number of books as my friend read his children.  I don't know if she kept a list.  If she did, I'd love to see it. Nevertheless, the reading of those books, if not the books themselves, remains forever among the best of my childhood memories.

It was nice reading my friend's list, after coming in from another afternoon of planting.  The list evoked good memories, even as we continue to make more memories.

Joe Planting Apricot Tree

Judy Planting Wisteria

Yesterday Morning Sunrise

Yesterday Evening Sunset

And a Rainbow

Osprey in Flight at the Pond House on Sunday

Osprey Making His Landing

The Fish Were Jumping,
But My Trigger Finger was too Slow


Gorges Smythe said...

One of my wife's favorite memories is of her and her siblings gathered around the kichen table as her mother read to them by kerosene lamp. (Electric came late to that country ridge.)

As I got older, my respect for my maternal grandmother waned some as I saw some inconsistencies in her life. I'm glad those memories are tempered by others of my sitting in her lap as a child as she read to me.

Bless you, Jane, for stirring those memories.

Louise said...

It was my Grandmother, and sometimes my Dad, who read to me. The Anne of Green Gables books, the Black Stallion books, Black Beauty, the Little House books, the Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come and many more, all became my life long friends on those cozy nights.