sign me up

by bam

they even gave me popcorn. a little cellophane-wrapped folded-up bag of unpopped kernels, to tuck in the microwave and listen to it do its rat-a-tat.
and a purple folder. and a recommended reading list. and all the rules.
oh, yes, oh yes, they did. and i am, you can maybe tell, as giddy as a girl in pigtails bouncing down the library stairs.
which is what i used to be. which is, all the doctor phils of the world would tell us, who i am today. my inner child must be a little girl who knows no grander glee than signing up for the summer reading program at the local library.
it’s what we did yesterday, me and m’ boys. it was the highlight of our first official monday of this here summer vacation, the start of the first full week of the 11 or 12 we’ve got (no one in this house seems to know just when this grand spell ends and we are in no hurry to check it out, i’ll tell you).
it was a toss-up: beach or bookshelves. and the bookshelves won. handily. the sand, we figured, will always be there. the little chart that counts the summer reading books, they might run out, you never know.
we all signed up, both boys and me. oh, yessiree.
the little one in the read-to-me plan. nestle in, sink your elbows and your shoulders in your mama’s side, turn the pages, take in the story, one book at a time, and you get an ice cream cone after 25. how fine is that?
the big one, the one who’s reading nietzsche and marx and everything under the sun about cameras, lenses and light, he went straight downstairs to where the grownups go. he got the popcorn too.
i imagine the two of us, inhaling handfuls of popcorn as we inhale our books. we’ll be sure to share with the little guy. long as he gives us a lick of his ice cream. can a summer get any more delicious?
i can see it, clear as if it wasn’t 40-something years ago, the little white folded sheet of librarian’s paper. an underwater scheme. and every time i read a book i got a little submarine stamp on the chart with my name on it. the one they kept, so proudly, right there on the library counter, in some sort of shoebox with alphabet dividers. i remember walking up to that librarian’s desk, there in the children’s section, announcing my name, reporting what i’d read since last time.
it was the honor roll of all honor rolls. i remember the end-of-summer reading party. we all got little cups of ice cream. vanilla. with a wooden spoon.
but mostly we got afternoons of reading. and reading. we got to bury our little noses in lewis carroll, and laura ingalls wilder. and best of all, frances hogdson burnett’s secret garden.
it was a rite of summer, it was a rite of being my mother’s child. my mother was a reader. and thus, we read too. like little ducks, we waddled in behind her. she split off to her corner of the library, we split off to ours.
we waddled out, an hour later, maybe longer, our arms growing, stretching, coming loose at the socket, under the weight of so many books. piled high, like up above. so many books you sometimes had to peek around the stack, to keep from tumbling down the steps.
and so, i’m the mama waddler now. i want my children to know, to love, the thrill of counting up the book list. to conquer ice cream maybe, but to conquer something more. to understand that to spend your summer afternoons tucked in a book is an adventure ride you’ll never ever, not in a million, or 50, years forget.
there is, i think, something to the structure of the summer reading program. the signing-up and all makes it feel official. like getting a driver’s license maybe. before you could ever reach the gas.
and then watching all the little stars–this year at our library it’s outer space and rocket ships that are the theme, there is always a theme, i can imagine the librarians meeting over sandwiches and coffee to come up with a theme to hook you in–and, one by one, the stars get colored in.
it makes it not so overwhelming to spend the summer reading books, when you count, one star at a time. and then, before you know it, you go back to school that much more in love with what’s tucked between the covers.
it is a heady thing, when you stop to think that once upon a time someone in this thing called civilization stopped to think it worth building whole temples to books and words and ideas. someone built a special house just for the love of letters.
and then, much later, some librarian looked at the whole long summer and realized that a little piece of folded-up paper, with stars and shapes to color in, could make the whole big temple come down a size, to fit in the palm and the heart of a little child, who thought it rather grand to sign up for a starship ride to books.

dear chair people, today marks six whole months, half a blessed year of meandering monday through friday. we have coursed many ups and downs, around some bends as well. i myself have had my breath taken away, more than once. it has been my daily intention to feed us all, to give us place and time to pause, to consider the not-oft considered. as it’s summer now, i am thinking we might all relish the lazy days before us, in the very best way. as one fine mind suggested, i might move the kitchen table outside, into the sunshine, make it a picnic table. if i’m so inspired i will pound out the usual meandering. but i might put out a recipe, a really juicy one. a one that shouts of summer. or maybe i will share some photos. my will, a.k.a. the manchild, is making art of what he sees around him, and you might like to see it too. if i find a really delicious paragraph in what i’m reading, i might lay that out for all to take a taste. or we might, perhaps, have another voice pull up a chair, with a meditation by someone other than just moi. it seems a right thing, a divine thing, to honor the season’s tempo and let things unspool here the way that summer does. each day there will indeed be something fresh and something new. but heaven only knows what will inspire us each day. for the six months past, with all my heart i thank you. this has been a little piece of paradise.

now, does anyone have anything to say about summer reading, the best, perhaps, that there is?