Thursday, December 1, 2011



      Edith Wharton said she had little memory of books or stimulation that stretched her mind, in her early years. Sounds unbelievable because she published so many works of literature, and supported herself well on earnings from her writings. My attention to literature developed at a snail’s pace, as well. There is little memory of books with any flavor that stretched my thinking. Sunday school and Bible classes in summer stirred my curiosity of stories from the Old Testament, supplemented with maps, of exotic faraway places of Egypt with the Nile and pyramids. At Christmas, the kings and wise men riding on camels and somewhere a story of Persia and flying carpets carried me to magic places.
     Elementary school readings are not memorable except   “Dick and Jane” and “Heidi”, who lived in the Alps with a grandparent. The Alps were difficult to imagine when I was surrounded by the flat lands of Oklahoma. The largest elevation of earth was the Arbuckles in the southern part of the state. Okies called them “Mountains. But they didn’t know better. The Alps were very far away. In the third grade “Nancy Drew”, captured my attention because she was young and drove a roadster through the hills and country, looking for mysteries to solve. I guess I found her at the library.
     But I do remember I found a college prep text. A previous tenant left it behind at my girlfriend’s house in her basement, where we sometimes played. Betty Lou said I could take it home. I glanced at the stories from time to time. It was filled with short stories and poems. I tried to read a few, but realized they were pretty advanced for me. I used the literature text to store my movie star pictures I cut from magazines and catalogued according to importance and then placed them between the pages. Viola, my first scrap book. My star pictures were of Bing Crosby, Gloria DeHaven, Peter Lawford, Betty Grabel, Clark Gabel, Mona Freeman, Lois Butler, Bill Holden, Joan Crawford, Dick Haymes, and Van Heflin. The names are barely visible, written on the blank pages in front. They are barely familiar, as well. I’ve kept the book since the third grade and now it sits on a shelf with hundreds of others.Over the years, the pictures slipped out and were lost. But I've kept the old book, published in 1933 and have read my favorite stories. They include A Ballad Rime of Ancient Mariner, Annabel Lee, and The Finding of Livingston. When picking up the faded blue book in more recent times, I’ve started the old legend, Treasure Island, savoring each word.
      I  was intrigued by "Gone With the Wind" a year later, when I moved in with my aunty and cousin. I didn’t read it.  However, my cousin Helen, who was my age, read it for thirty minutes every day, while indulging in her morning constitution.  We were only in the fourth grade and she was a better reader than I.
      I inherited this same book, my great aunts, Aunt Mary and Aunt Opal said vividly described Atlanta, as their grandmother Cornelia had described to them when they were young girls.  Their grandmother had been horrified about The Civil War and its aftermath. After the War Between the States, as it was called then, Grandmother Cornelia's second cousin, Captain Albert Baird returned to Athens, outside of Atlanta and married her. Mother used to tell me that there were so few males left because of the high fatality rate of the war.
      The War was a constant memory in the family. At least two generations often talked about it. Over the years, "Gone With the Wind's" binding came apart and I taped it with masking tape, the other day so it would stay together when I read it.  I’m reading it this summer. It was published in 1938. I will hold it so carefully and remember those in my family who read it and reflected upon the memories of that time. I know I’ll never catch up on those important books that I missed, beginning when I was young, but I will die trying.

No comments:

Post a Comment