Monday, October 19, 2009

Reading a book out loud

When I was child, my dad's work moved us to Argentina.

We rented a 'company' house - one that was passed from one employee to another over the years. It was an English tudor style house and when we moved in it was very bland.

But bushes were planted and roses were tended to - and the house blossomed.

For most of the first year we lived there, our furniture was in shipment somewhere between Los Angeles and Buenos Aires. Neighbors lent us furniture, including a purple velveteen loveseat. For several months, the purple velveteen loveseat was the only piece of furniture in our living room. I can still picture it - very ornate, very soft, and very purple. And not at all useful for a family with children. My mother supervised every time we sat upon it. No shoes were allowed near it, no snotty noses, no toys.

When winter arrived, my mother started reading the book Heidi to us. I was fascinated by Heidi, how she was uprooted and sent to live in an environment so different. I hung on every word as my mother read to us, one chapter at a time. Mom would sit in the purple velveteen loveseat; my brother and I would sit on the wooden floor near the fireplace. Page after page was turned, chapter after chapter was read. I retreated into the book and into Heidi's friendship with Peter and life with her grandfather. I ached for her and suffered her same sadness. I, too, needed to find something I was a part of, something I could hold on to for the rest of my life (well, when you are 5 years old, stability for the rest of your life is expected!).

Months and years went along. I learned to read my own books, mostly Nancy Drews or the Boxcar children books. And my favorite, The Secret Garden. I so badly wanted my mother to read Mary Lenox's sad story out loud to me. I think I craved hearing my mother's voice read it as a reassurance that my mother wouldn't die as Mary's mother had - that I wouldn't become an orphan, too.

All these memories came flooding back to me as I now read the book "After You" by Julie Buxbaum. A child is left motherless, and a family friend draws the young girl out of her shell by reading her The Secret Garden.

I am escaping alone, all over again.

5 comments:

Buenos Aires Photoblog said...

Love the old pictures, so vintage! Do you remember the area where you used to live in Buenos Aires?

Brenda's Arizona said...

We lived near Hurlingham. I don't remember where that is from B.A. Can you direct me?

altadenahiker said...

Wonderful piece! Lyrical, funny, nostalgic. And of course, I love the family picture.

FA said...

You are blessed to have such great pictures. Who would ever thought they would have ended up being shared with new and old friends on a blog in the year 2009?!?!?

Mary said...

I'm thinking that love seat may have been the one you took refuge on during a rain storm, while Bruce went down the street to retrieve your folks from a card game. Something about alligators getting you if you climbed down? Is that the seat?