Sunday, August 21, 2011

Speaking of Elementary School...

Memories... oh memories.
Some of the most vivid memories I have from childhood involve the books that I read... and reread.
I don't like to read books twice or see movies twice or watch rerun on TV. I have a pretty good memory (or I did before giving birth) and thus there is little joy in redoing what is already permanently done in my brain.
There are however, a few exceptions.
A few such exceptions have stuck with me all of these many (almost two decades) years later.
I'm not sure which came first but I am pretty sure it was
Sarah, Plain and Tall.

I thought her name was Sarahplainandtall... that's what happens when you are young and very literal. ha! This is the story of a poor family in the country and their mama dies. The dad knows that he cannot take care of the farm and all the work while also providing stability and education for his children (a boy and a girl I think) and so he puts an add in the newspaper for a woman to come and live with them to take care of the kids.
Sarah, from Maine, responds and comes all the way down to a completely different culture to help with the children.
The children instantly love her and I did too. She was patient and kind and knew how to soothe their pain. She sacrificed and brought joy and nourishment to their bodies and souls. In the end the Dad realizes that he too loves Sara.
I read and reread this book through out elementary school and I specifically remember the night my mom let me stay up WAY past my bedtime to watch, I think, Glenn Close (though I was told by my all-wise older sister that she was not a very good lady and was in some really bad movies that I would never be allowed to watch) play Sarah in a made for TV movie based on the book. I was enthralled.
When I think of this book I still feel the hot dry wind blowing through the dust and whizzing around my long, prairie skirt... it was all too real to me then.

The second book was Turn Homeward Hannalee.
I have only met one other person who has even heard of this book! This was the most traumatizing and suspenseful book I had ever read to that point in my life and I think it was also the first book I ever cried in or at least wanted to cry for.
Hannalee is a poor Southern girl working in a mill during the civil war and she gets kidnapped by Yankee soldiers and take north, away from her mother and eventually separated from her brother and made a servant for the Union and eventually a northern family.
She knows from the beginning that she MUST return to her mama and when she is finally overcome in her circustances as a servant, she runs away and tries to find her way home. She comes across war and the aftermath of war. She meets with hunger and fear but in the end... she is embraced in her mother's arms again.
I specifically remember sitting in the back seat of our maroon suburban, driving on a fall day from the library to the playground with the windows down. Every one was happy and getting along and I was reading my book. I read in the car and at the park and the air was crisp and cool (rare for Texas) and it smelled like leaves and burning fires.
Back then the world was simple and yet I was slowly coming to know that it was also complex. I was/am so serious, so interested and intense about everything and I labored with Hannalee through every step of her arduous journey!

Finally, a book I only read once (maybe twice) but soaked in to my very heart was On the Banks of Plum Creek. I actually remember very little about this book because I read the whole series in a row (I think I did at least). However, I remember the feeling I had through out the whole book.

It's the same feeling you might get when you are walking on a slightly warm and yet cool spring day with out any shoes on and the grass is cool (not yet itchy from summer sun and bugs) and you stick your feet into a perfectly clear stream of water. The rocks are smooth and cool and the water bubbles around you ankles and toes and it is too cold to want to immerse yourself in but just perfect for your feet. The whole world smells fresh and clean and the sun is bright and friendly (not sleepy like fall and winter or angry like summer). There is nothing weighing on your mind or your heart and you know that God is good, you are loved and good things lie ahead.
I remember finishing this book with a sigh and simply closing the book and flipping it over to just gaze at the cover and that cool spring rushing along the banks of Plum Creek. I wanted to be Laura and live there in that simplicity. I wanted to breathe it in.
Of all these books this is the one I remember the least and reread the least and yet look forward to reading aloud to Stella the most. I can't wait to crawl up together on the couch before bed time and read her a chapter or two and see her dissolve into the world of wagons and candy stores and long dresses and braids.
The other two, I hope she will read on her own as she discovers herself and a little about the world around her. But this is one of the only books I intensely hope she will let me read with her.
We'll see. Mamas can't hold those dreams too tight or they will break...

1 comment:

cal+claire said...

I totally thought her name was Sarahplainandtall also! The movie was Glenn Close and Christopher Walken. I remember loving the movie when I was little, but later realized I only liked it because you did and that in real life I didn't really like it. Sad!

P.s. I watched Jane Eyre last night... disappointed