Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Never just words

Sitting with her on the couch and the fire out because I neglected it.

I dog-eared the page. Recently she asked me, "Mom, why are all the history books about war?"

And I hmphed at her observation.

***

"What's one word you would use to sum up this chapter?" I asked my Great Books students.

"Brotherhood," someone offered. I wrote it down.

"Baby lump," someone else laughed. I wrote it down.

"War," I said, and added it to the mix. I posed Erin's question to the high schoolers on Monday as we finished up a chapter of war, war, war in Ancients.

"Because that's the only way things get done," a meek one offered.

***

"What was it like when the world was peaceful, Cuffy?"
"Ah," said Cuffy, coming up again. "It seemed like a lovely world; anyway on top where it showed. But it didn't last long." The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright.

We settled into last pages. I felt lost in the ocean with Mona as she swam; felt the waters when she realized how one day she would be a grown up ... that "going on fourteen was pretty old after all." And when she swam fast, churning and reaching, until the knowledge was left behind, I swam faster.

Did she know how these words pierced a mama's heart, this little one cuddled against me? Did she know that any moment, I could cry?

***

A lighthouse. It sat on a coffee table at piano, and I took a picture of it. It made me think of the Melendys at Mrs. Oliphant's lighthouse home that salty, sweltering summer long ago in the pages of The Saturdays.

"Let our home be a lighthouse to our neighbors, our nation, our world."
***

And when I turned to what was the last of the pages and could see the emptiness beyond the last period, I felt as I often do when a story is over--and I read slower and softer so the words lingered in my ears.

Those kids staring up at a summer moon, reimagining the events both good and bad that brought them where they were. I nod and know.

The last of the sentences, spoiler alert, and she welcomes the thought that summer means every day is Saturday, and yawns wide with peace and happiness.

"What a terrible ending," Erin said. "I hate when a book ends like that and you don't know what happens. Who would ever end a book with a yawn?"

But I nod and know ... of summer stretched out, and field fragrances, and the splash-splash-splash of blue, and picnics with red and white checkered blankets spread out beneath the feathery ferny leaves of a walnut tree.

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