Friday, October 30, 2009

Tell Me A Story

The Home Tour is just a week away and the urge to start cleaning top to bottom, inside to out, is becoming irresistible. I find myself using my sleeve to capture cobwebs from the corners of the pantry, wiping the rime of dust from the trim on the doorways and closets. And speaking of closets, the one that was Ben's, in the office, is being eyed as most likely repository for the six by three by one foot volume of books, papers, and correspondence on the desk. So, time to attack the big box in the bottom of the closet.

Lots of debris, lots of loose change, several rosettes from years ago livestock shows. But I also found four paperbacks that we thought were long gone, a series of stories that I know Lee read til the covers fell off. I took them upstairs where all the other "kid's" books now reside, ready to be resurrected as the grandkids reach the age of sniffing through bookcases like their parents did and their grandparents as well. What's living upstairs now? Recently I sent 'Twenty-one Balloons' home with Ann. She's read it to Aaron and he in turn has constructed his own aircraft with HyVee sacks and two whirligigs. One evening when he was spending the night, we read a chapter from 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'. I had a tendency to buy books I remembered as a kid for my children as they grew. Sure, we had lots of books from Scholastic, but the girls lived 'Little Women' and Ben got 'Sherlock Holmes'. One year, he was even Hercule Poirot for Halloween. I loved Dr. Doolittle, all Marguerite Henry's books, all Walter Farley' 'Black Stallion' books. But my special love was reserved for the semi fairy tale, semi fantasy, semi folk tales by Lloyd Alexander. My grandmother gave me a paperback version of 'The Castle of Llyr' and I stalked the aisles of our little library until the next story arrived. They were full of good hearted, frail creatures, a marvelous mix of magic, heartache, adventure, terror and morality. As an adult I appreciate the subtle, gradual way that Alexander's characters "grew up", becoming less selfish, less self centered, and ultimately sacrificing immediate gratification for doing good. But as a kid, the bad guys were really really evil and there was no subtlety about the necessity of their destruction.
And, indeed, there was an unambiguous yet bittersweet happy ending and lots of good parts to read over and over again.
Well, why this nostalgia? Because I know my grandkids shouldn't see 'Where the Wild Things Are'. Or probably lots of other movies that pass for kids' fare. I feel safe picking out stories that I read in a long ago time, because I don't trust today's paperbacks to tell a wondrous tale without lots of baggage that unsubtle little minds don't need. I'm reading a novel now with some characters that try to behave in a Christian manner, who fail at the task, some who resist temptations, more that do not, and, frankly, I have had a difficult time working up any empathy for any of them. That's fine for me; if I have a bad taste or a bad dream, I did it. But that isn't for children. They really should want to read and read again, to be so wrapped up in a tale that it almost feels real. A good story should be sitting on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, or the library, or up in Grandma's attic, waiting, waiting to be rediscovered by the grown up child who will smile in remembrance and take it home to the next generation.


  1. I cannot wait to send some grandkids to your house and watch them sit on your lap as you read to them :)

    I remember hating how my Mom wouldn't let us see PG13 movies till I was 15 and at the time I was really mad, but I think now I'm less disturbed by a very very sinful scary world than some. (I already had scary dreams of people coming in my house and shooting us all since I was 7)

  2. Why do books have to teach "Lessons"? Why can't they just teach kids volcabulary and imagination and maybe some geography....I just attended a workshop where they encouraged us to read a story about fires to our child. I remember my fire stage and lived through Aaron's tornado phase...not going to happen....