Saturday, September 5, 2009

Home Safe

Immediately afterward, Helen heard Tessa yell, "Mom! Mom! Hey, Mom!" When Helen came to the door, she said, "Do you want to play with us?" Helen smiled and declined, even though she wanted nothing more than to abandon her housework to go outside with that group of free little beings. She regrets to this day the fact that she didn't do it.

Dan came back to the car, beaming. The woman who lived there was most accommodating when she heard Helen was a writer (though she'd never heard of Helen, he reluctantly admitted) and she told Dan that he and Helen could go ahead and look around all they liked. She even told Dan how to get down to E.B. White's writing shed by the water, trusting them to be there alone. When Helen walked into that little shed with its slab of wooden desk and bare floors and open window that framed the blue waters of the bay, she burst into tears. She cried for the beautiful words White had written, and she cried because he was dead, and she cried for the privilege of being in this space, where he had looked out this very window and smoked and though and written lines full of such humor, intelligence and heart.

The Box had become an annual tradition, each year going to a different member of their little family. And although the Box itself became softer and more misshapen with every year, it was always the most beautifully wrapped gift under the tree. The person who received it was supposed to talk about what was "in" the Box ---what tangible gifts were presently in his or her life: but that rarely worked. It seemed hard for people to say out loud the things that were most important to them, unless it was in retrospect.

When Suzie introduced Helen, she told the audience that one of the best things about books is that they are an interactive art form; that while authors may describe in some detail how a character looks, it is the reader's imagination that completes the image, making it his or her own. "That's why we so often don't like movies made from books, right?" Suzie said. "We don't like someone else's interpretation of what we see so clearly." She talked, too, about how books educate and inspire, and how they soothe souls--"like comfort food without the calories," she said. She talked about the tactile joys of reading, the feel of a page beneath one's fingers; the elegance of typeface on a page. She talked about how people complain that they don't have time to read, and reminded them that if they gave up half an hour of television a day in favor of reading, they could finish twenty-five books a year. "Books don't take time away from us," she said. "They give it back. In this age of abstraction, of multitasking, of speed for speed's sake, they reintroduce us to the elegance--and the relief!-- of real, tick-tock time.


  1. Aha.... I found something that makes me wanna head out the door and look for it.... I'd probably get it just for the bluejay on the front cover!

    Thanks for opening these books and giving us glimpses of what's caught your eye!

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