And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
When the pandemic started back in 2020, I began a routine with my granddaughter, Grandgirl Maya Mae. Most every night at 8:30, we Zoom, and we read a book together. Even now, after things have finally calmed down and I can actually see her again, we continue with our reading routine. We read all of the Junie B. Jones books, followed by all of Beverly Cleary’s books. We read Lois Lowry’s Gooney Bird Greene series, which were a lot of fun, given that Gooney Bird Greene is an elementary school kid full of writing advice for her classmates. We read this, that, and the other thing. In the three years we’ve been reading, Maya has grown from 7 years old to 10. And I’ve absolutely delighted in a grandchild who loves to read.
As soon as I learned how to read, I fell fully in love with it. I learned in the first grade, like most people of my generation, but I very quickly took those words between my teeth and ran with them. One afternoon, partway through first grade, I spent afternoon recess in the school library with my teacher, Mrs. Knuti. We scoured the shelves for books that were at my accelerated reading level, but that didn’t contain “inappropriate topics” for a 6-year old. We found a few, but Mrs. Knuti gave up and for the rest of first grade, then second grade with Mrs. Johnson and third grade with Mrs. Campbell, the teachers put their heads together and ordered books for me from the middle school and high school libraries. I was ravenous, often carrying these books outside at recess and plopping myself under a tree to read.
The public library librarian also quickly befriended me. She led me to a corner where Young Adult books were kept, though I don’t know if they were called that then. It was a small library and I think I ripped through every book they had, also crossing over into carefully selected adult books, then rechecked everything out a second time, and a third time.
In the basement of my home, my mother kept her collection of books from when she was a girl, and so I read all of Louisa May Alcott, and Margaret Sidney’s Five Little Peppers series. There was also a series about a girl named Mimi who attended Sheridan School, and her adventures. These books were wonderfully old-fashioned and I loved them. I also began to ask for books for Christmas and my birthday, and so there was always something to read or reread.
Mrs. Campbell, my third grade teacher, and the public library librarian both gifted me with books as well. Mrs. Campbell read a chapter from a book every day after recess, and so I went from reading a book outside to listening to her read a book inside. Lovely. When she finished a book, she’d let us take turns bringing the book home to read for ourselves. I was fifth in line for the book Daddles by Ruth Sawyer, and when I finally got my hands on it, I just kept forgetting to bring it back. When I finally did, she told me to keep it and I was thrilled. It sits behind me even now, always within reach. With the public library, I checked out the book A Candle In Her Room by Ruth M. Arthur so many times, the librarian told me to just keep it. I still have that one as well. And The Island Of The Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell too. In that book, there was a wild dog named Rontu, the leader of the pack, and when I was given a stuffed dalmation dog with bells in his ears that Christmas (bought with S&H Green Stamps!), I named him Rontu.
And now, a granddaughter who loves to read? Oh, heaven!
Somewhere along the way in our reading adventures, Maya and I stumbled across the author Katherine Applegate. I know I chose the first book for Maya because the cover had a picture of a boy sitting next to a six-foot cat. Maya is obsessed with cats. The book is titled Crenshaw and we were enamored. Just as I tore through favorite authors when I was a kid, I now ran along behind Maya as she did the same thing. We read everything Applegate wrote, and then we waited for her next book. Impatiently. But we waited. When we received word that a new book would be released in May, Maya Mae marched into her school library and demanded that it be ordered. Even though she knew that she’d be getting a copy from me. She likes having the books at home and at school. That way, she’s surrounded with those she loves.
My kinda girl.
On Monday, I received word that the new book, The One And Only Ruby, the third book in this series, was on its way and would arrive on Tuesday. On Tuesday, I received a text message saying that my package was five stops away. I paced the big windows in my classroom, watching for that van, and when it arrived, I met the driver in the parking lot. I took a picture of the book’s cover and reached for my phone to text Maya, to say, “It’s here! It’s here!”, but then I remembered she was in school. So I watched the clock and texted her after I knew she was home.
And then came my Moment. Maya texted back.
But NINE “Yays!” spread across my cell phone screen. And about a bajillion exclamation points. I could hear the shriek behind them.
“Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
A granddaughter who reads. A girl after my own heart. I have no doubt that when Maya Mae is 62 years old, like I am, she will turn from her desk and see a book from her childhood, saved in this extra special, always close by place.
And when she sees it, I bet she thinks of me.
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! from the future.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.