I seem to be in a bit of book lag; I pick them up, put them down, forget where I put them, go on to another, find the first . . . the point is that I’m in one of those passages in life where I am not getting hooked in the first chapters. It is not the fault of the writers but of myself. I seem to be in a distracted spell, needing a magic wand to whisk me back to literature.
I have three library books, now overdue, that need rapid transit to the library. They have been renewed so many times that they are now non-renewable. Does that ever happen to you?
I keep meaning to start “The Light We Cannot See”; even more so now that the author, Anthony Doerr was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
“Ironweed”, by William Kennedy, has been gathering dust along with “Spook”, by Mary Roach and a host of other books that are begging me to opening them up – and keep them open. I will. I know I will. Sometimes a book just needs to bide its time until the words resting inside become comfortable on the reader’s eyes. Like the books about me, I was biding my time.
I’ve been busy with our garden and the garden club, household chores and my many activities, life in progress. I did find time to stop in at charming gift shop in nearby Clarendon Hills. Ebenezer’s is filled with antiques and vintage items, ribbons and cards, jewelry and dolls – and a lovely collection of teacups and serving plates. I wandered around, the music of Downton Abbey floating through the air as I hobbled up the wooden staircase, admiring a table set with flow blue, old cookbooks and glassware, before returning to the main floor, whose boards squeaks in that companionable way that old floorboards have of telling their tale. I checked out the jewelry and stuffed animals, then noticed the wide array of classic, and soon-to-be classic, children’s literature.
Do you know what I found? It was a book I’ve been looking for ever since seeing a documentary last winter about children’s author/illustrator Virginia Lee Burton. Virginia Lee Burton: A Sense of Place, is wonderful production about her life, her marriage, her family and her work. Many of you know “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel” and “Katy”. I’d forgotten about “Choo Choo”, which I bought for our Ezra, who love, love, loves trains and hoped to one day find “The Little House” after seeing the documentary.
“The Little House” is available online and at bookstores, but, I had it in my mind to find it, just like the great great granddaughter of the man who first built the little house finds it in Burton’s story, I needed to find “The Little House”, and I did, there in the charming shop called Ebenezer’s, late in the afternoon. It seemed to be waiting for me to come upon it, to open its covers, and to bring it home.
This is an endearing children’s story, which is really about urban development encroaching upon country life. This little house is built on a hillside looking out over the pastures and fields and up to the sun and the moonlit skies. As the pages turn, trees and farms and schools and roads, then stores and trains and skyscrapers appear until the little house is alone on a city street, sad and boarded up, no longer relevant (or so it seems), until a young woman walks by and remembers her great great grandfather’s house.
Historic preservation in a children’s book, written mid-twentieth century, “The Little House” is refereed to as Rachel Carson for kids. First published in 1942, this is a cautionary tale for adults as much as a sweet storybook for children.
I brought “The Little House” home and settled upon the rocker which Tom’s great grandfather rocked, in my own 90+ year old house. Some of the resident herd of deer were grazing on the clear cut lot next door. A hawk circled overhead, then a raucous gaggle of geese. There are remnants of an apple orchard and walnut trees stain the street with their bounty. Our soil was once tilled as farmland and old traps can be found when wandering about. It is as idyllic as it is not, bounded by a road cut off and two major highways, a railroad yard close by and sloughs as ancient as the earth itself but a few miles away. As I rocked and read my newfound book reminded me of how children’s literature can snap me out of a bit of book lag and carry me home to where I ought to be.
Then, I remembered the painting above by William James Glacken, titled Portrait of Penny. A book not yet opened, a cookie to be nibbled, and a bit of the young girl hidden within.
Sigh. I think I’m over my book lag.