Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Good Friends Forever

Books mark stages of our lives. They become more than words on pages forming sentences. They become good friends and when thought of, bring back memories of being swept away while sitting quietly turning pages.

I can still see my grandfather in his chair by the window in the front parlor of the old farmhouse in the early evening. After a full day's work, he'd sit and read. He loved Zane Grey westerns; devoured Saturday Evening Posts cover to cover. We'd play all around him but I don't think he ever noticed. He was being swept away.

I still remember going with my mother to a small bookstore in our downtown when we had a downtown. She loved fiction; mostly of the South when sprawling plantations were still sprawling and the women dressed like Scarlett O'Hara and all the men were Rhett Butlers. My mother worked as head nurse, evening shift in the ER. When she got home-before going to bed, she'd read. She'd sit near the window in the side room that bordered the lane-sometimes with her white duty shoes still on and let the words sweep her away. I bet that's how she relaxed after hours at the hospital.

My grandmother gave us books as gifts. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Carolyne Keene's Nancy Drew Mysteries, even the Bobbsey Twins took turns going to the chicken coop with me-just in case I had a spare minute to read between going on great adventures with my cousins. Sometimes that chicken coop clubhouse turned into a library. We'd put all the books we had up on display; turn little slips of paper into our card catalog; then check them out to as many pretend patrons as we could make up that day. Some days we were quite busy!

There's no richer an experience we can give our children than that of immersing them in books; taking them to libraries and letting them sift through the shelves; letting them touch them and smell them; letting them experience being swept away for once they've been swept away, they'll want to be swept away again and again. Boredom will never be in their vocabulary.

No one could sweep children away better than Theodor Geisel-the beloved Dr. Seuss who celebrates his birthday this month. His hilarious, tongue-twisting characters and storylines continue to spur young imaginations everywhere. Happy Birthday Dr.Seuss. What a good friend you are to children and the young-at-heart everywhere!

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