Literacy Musing Mondays is for all bloggers who love to write anything literacy related such as essays about the love of reading and/or writing, book reviews, or posts about fun literacy activities. All family-friendly posts are welcome.
Some of the most delicious morsels we consume are not the meals we partake of, but rather the nourishment of words which speak to our souls. When you are the oldest of five children with alcoholic parents, life is tenuous and uncertain, rocky around the edges and loosely glued together by basic threads of food, shelter and clothing. I could always count on those basics while growing up. Although my father was often either unemployed (“I’m just in between jobs”) or underemployed, we did not go hungry. God, via neighbors and friends throughout my young life, saw to it that we had enough to eat.
But the meals that really saved me, body and soul, were the feasts I found in glorious stories, words that took me away from a chaotic and crowded household to a world of people and places that shone with beauty, peace and plenty.
I am lending a hand to my son as he and his family move house (for the 3rd time.) My grandson Hanan, the oldest of 5, is hiding in his room reading “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” As a teacher and a grown up I am loathe to call the Wimpy Kid books ‘literature’ but I will say this—those books have got my grandson reading.
Books were my solace when I was growing up, too. I remember hiding away in my room, shutting out the noise and the too-muchness of my four siblings. As early as the age of 12 or 13, whether I wanted to or not, I was often left to babysit my brothers and sisters while my parents stepped out for the evening.
When I was in charge I just let my brothers and sister play on their own (those were simpler times) while I escaped into the pages of a good book. I found beauty and gentleness, people who were just like me, getting by on little, yet living with happy hearts. A big family was a plus in hard times; I could definitely relate.
One of those books I carry in my heart is Louisa May Alcott’s “Rose in Bloom” (c. 1876), a sequel to Alcott’s ‘Eight Cousins.’ It was a very old-fashioned coming of age story “with absolutely no moral” as the author stated in the preface. The lines read like a fairy tale; splendor and parties, fancy dresses, adoring young men—all a young pre-teen girl could want. I got lost for hours.
I also fell in love with Alcott’s “Little Women” and gravitated to the lead character of Jo (my mother’s nickname for me). The heroine and I had much in common: both of us the oldest, bossy to a fault, and enamored of our absent fathers—Jo’s was off fighting the war, mine – a stepfather-was away somewhere drinking or gambling.
Jo often dreamed at her mother’s feet of her father’s homecoming; perhaps the story resonated so with my young girls’ heart because I longed for that to be true as well—that my father would be present in my life.
Gene Stratton Porter’s classic “Freckles” also became a sacred text to me; I have the volume I read as a 12 year old on my bookshelf today. Dreaming as I read, I envisioned Freckles’ cathedral in the swamp forest as a place of solace. Freckles created a place of beauty from the forest at his feet, designed by God, where he was heard and understood. Between those pages I found an escape to quiet like I’d never known, a place where silence spoke volumes.
I also found a kindred spirit with Freckles— a father who’d abandoned him, no one but he and God and the stunning beauty of the Limberlost. Although Porter’s story never directly mentioned the Divine, His existence palpated between the lines. I could sense a Presence in her words, the light glimpsing its way into the Cathedral in the woods, the chapters like a song calling me to a Somewhere Else far away.
There are many other volumes that struck a chord as well—stories like “The Five Little Peppers and How they Grew”, Margaret Sidney, 1881. (from the book jacket),
“Ben, Polly, Joel, Davie, and Phronsie, and their widowed mother are a loving family, full of spirit and adventure. Ben and Polly do what they can to support the family, but a bout with measles threatens the well being of the entire Pepper clan, especially Joel and Polly.”
Five children, an absent father and the measles, a threat to our family I remember very well. The book had been written for me, I was sure.
Another classic was “The Boxcar Children”, Gertrude Chandler Warner, 1942, first book. A tale of four orphaned children living in—imagine!—an abandoned boxcar, making do with little or nothing. The common thread of happy children scraping by with little, making the best of what they had; the parallels rang true as a bell.
Through all those ringing bells, the resonating tune was God’s song calling me through the pages of these books. I was being drawn to beauty, peace and provision, while He prepared my heart and soul to hear His voice.
I am still drawn to the classics, the song and rhythm, the beauty of the language a magnifier of the beauty in that other world where I will live some day, with my God who will never leave, who is the resource of all I will ever need.
Books brought me a sort of salvation, carrying me to my Savior;
they carry me still to this day.
What literacy activities have you participated in with your family and loved ones?
All family-friendly posts are welcome. 😉