“Werner thinks of his childhood, the skeins of coal dust suspended in the air on winter mornings…” from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
For some reason, this stirred a childhood memory of milk. For a very short time when we first moved to Jacksonville, FL, we had our milk delivered by the “milkman”. On our front porch sat a metal crate where we would leave our empty bottles and take delivery of fresh milk. I remember the tops were sealed with thick paper lids. This milk was probably from Skinner’s Dairy, a hometown company that later built numerous drive-thru milk stores across Jacksonville.
In north Florida it didn’t get cold very often, but there were some winter mornings when we were excited to be able to see our breath in the chilly air. There was one winter I’ll always remember as the temperature got down in the upper teens and our heat went out. Our dad was out of town at the time on one of his many business trips. We bundled up and played outside anyway. The very large ditch – like a creek – behind our house was frozen on the top. Our friend’s little dog, Ginger, skittered across easily. Our dog, Dixie, followed her and went right through to the icy water.
Other fall and winter days were filled with my brothers playing football in the front yard and a few evening fires in our fireplace. In high school it was a time to wear stylish sweaters to school, then go outside for PE in the short gym suits we had to wear. I remember being teased about the chill bumps on my legs – referred to as chicken skin.
After moving to Birmingham in 2014, I was so excited about our first fall and winter. Sweaters and boots and scarves were so much fun! But, then it seemed to last forever and I yearned for the warmth of spring.
Last year, summer far outlasted its welcome. And this year we’ve had our share of hurricanes in the south. Now I long once more for the cool air and some justification for a pumpkin spice latte.
I’ve been working through some books that are either by Alabama authors, or take place in Alabama, or both. Here are a few brief reviews.
I Wish I Was in Dixie collected and edited by Marie Stokes Jemison and Jim Reed
This is a collection of stories from all across Alabama, from Birmingham to Montgomery to Tuscaloosa
Dear Slave – poems by Irene Latham. These are rich retellings of stories taken from the mouths of slaves and recorded by Ruby Pickens Tartt many years ago.
I Still Dream of You by Fannie Flagg. This was an enjoyable read and one that had me doing a little research about Birmingham. I read this for my book club, but no one else was able to finish it that month. 😦
Fried Green Tomatoes At the Whistle Stop Cafe – also by Fannie Flagg. I couldn’t read this without picturing Kathy Bates in the role of Evelyn. I STILL need to go to the cafe in Irondale!
I decided to tackle my bookshelves in April. I reorganized, categorized some, discarded a whopping five books. Along the way I made a few discoveries.
I’d consider about 21 of my books to be reference books; I’m not ever going to read them cover-to-cover. About 41 are fiction books I’ve read that I just have to keep, including my collection of 22 Maeve Binchy books. I didn’t make a final book count in the house because that would have meant counting my husband’s books and all the books I have for grandkids and other littles that visit. Speaking of kids’ books, I have 13 Golden books, 15 in my set of Chidlcraft from my own childhood, 12 Great Illustrated Classics, a set of 11 “My Book House” books from my father-in-law, plus quite a list of pictures books.
Of the 270 (+) TBR books, here are some breakdowns:
11 “Irish” books
about 50 kid/YA books
8 short story/ collections
a variety of 49 fictional books
and… I think I’m embarrassed about this … 42 books about writing
So, where does all this lead? Hopefully to me stepping away from the computer and TV and reading more. But, when I AM on that computer, I need to be putting one of those 42 writing books to good use.
(previously posted @ Carry Me Home on 4/5/17)
“…I was paying for a book one day – I remember this so clearly- when Mr. Penumbra looked me in the eye and said, ‘Rosemary’” she does a good Penumbra impression-”’Rosemary, why do you love books so much?”
“And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know.’” She’s animated, girlish now: “‘I suppose I love them because they’re quiet, and I can take them to the park,’” She narrows her eyes. “He watched me, and he didn’t say a word. So then I said, ‘Well, actually, I love books because books are my best friends.’ Then he smiled – he has a wonderful smile – and he walked over and got on that ladder, and climbed higher than I’d ever seen him climb.”
From Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
This got me to thinking about why I love books. I agree they are quiet and I can take them just about anywhere. I wouldn’t say it’s because they are my best friends, though perhaps I should consider making them my best friends seeing as I need some. Anyhow, why DO I love books so much?
I love that I can travel to places I might not ever get to otherwise. I can also read about places where I’ve been and relive memories from past times and places.
I love to meet characters that inspire me, make me smile, make me cry. I come to care about what happens to these characters. Watching them live and grow, suffer and rejoice, is often a balm to my spirit. Many of them remind me of people I know.
I love to read another author’s words and think ‘A-ha!’ because it’s exactly what I am thinking or feeling. Sometimes I am surprised at the emotions that rise up within me. Sometimes the words lead to thoughts and inspire words in me that I must write down.
It’s not just books, either. It’s bookstores, especially used ones, with their lovely old smells and shelves of treasures just waiting to be unearthed. It’s the bookish conversations with staff and other customers. It’s the bookmarks and notepads. And sometimes it’s the coffee.
“I remember lying in our hay-loft reading The Secret Garden with a cowbell beside me. I’d read for an hour and then ring the bell for a glass of lemonade to be brought to me. Mrs. Hutchins, the cook, finally grew weary of this arrangement and told my mother, and that was the end of my cowbell, but not my reading on the hay.” (Juliet to Dawsey)
The Secret Garden was written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who also wrote A Little Princess. When I was about 10 years old, my Aunt Billie gave me a copy of A Little Princess. It was the only time I remember getting a gift from her and it was one of the first hardback books I ever owned. I absolutely loved it! There have been several movie versions produced, but none compared to what I imagined as It read this treasure.
A few years later I received a make-up mirror for Christmas. This was not only used in vain attempts to glamorize my pudgy adolescent face, but it was also a boon to my evening reading. Many a night I would settle this device under my covers and read after bedtime without being caught.
My daughter-in-law has made a cozy reading nook in my grandkids room, with cushy pillows and a string of colorful star lights. I would have been over the moon with a space like that as a kid! They both love books; the six year old is a beginning reader and it warms my heart to hear him read so eagerly. I’ve found that books with CDs are fantastic in the car – they listen and read along and don’t fight (as much).
If you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, aunt, friend – I hope you are able to be a part of a young reader’s life. I am grateful to my Aunt Billie for giving me that book, to my parents for driving me to the public library downtown, to my elementary school librarian for introducing me Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and to my husband who loves exploring used bookstores as much as I do.
The prompt for Day 6 of PAD 2016 was to write an ekphrastic poem. An ekphrastic poem is a poem inspired by art. My poem was inspired by A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honore Fragonard. When we saw the original painting, my daughters were 19 and almost 12.
Young Girls Reading
When you girls were young
an eight-by-ten of
A Young Girl Reading
hung on the bedroom wall
I would look at her
and see you both
curled up somewhere
book in hand
then one day
in the National Gallery of Art
there it was
and we marveled
at the kinship we felt
with that girl in the yellow dress