I recently picked up The Great Gatsby. It was sitting in a pile of free books at my daughter’s summer school location and it was begging me to read it.
“I’ll read it also!” my daughter said.
I jumped at the offer. The past few years I’ve only read books she has recommended to me. Wonder. The Fault In My Stars. Holes. I see dozens of books scattered in her room that I’ve not been privy to. The Book Thief. Night. And so many more.
She’s almost 15 now. I’ll admit to being more than a tad jealous of her secret world that she lives in her books. That world used to be through me.
Some of my favorite memories were reading to her out loud. When she was five I read her the original Secret Garden. I can still remember cuddling on my bed with her – those long languid days before I had to scoot out the door for work and time wasn’t such a rare commodity. Lazy moments seemed to grow like those flowers up the garden wall… slow and relaxed. Why rush? Why not bloom in our own sweet time?
That same theme of quiet, languid living is now coming alive to me as I read The Great Gatsby again. It’s been thirty years and I had forgotten about that beautiful house… the white dresses and fluttering curtains. I had not remembered about the racism and the affairs. The anger and the snobbery. And the dump near the train tracks… oy, vey, the dust!
Despite not remembering the details of this book, the themes and tone of it, and so many others, are buried deep in my subconscious, because there’s a familiarity when I enter a new location that comes from a knowing deep in my gut: “I get this person,” I think. Or, “I’ve been in this old town before… at some point.” This knowledge keeps me feeling connected always.
And that’s when it hit me this weekend, while walking on the beach with my husband, that reading to my kids when they were younger was the same thing as giving them a positive mindset. If we are literally what we think, then filling their brains with as much literature as possible at a young age made so much sense. Their world couldn’t help but be richer and fuller and full of sneaky hidden passages. It’s not the school that made all the difference in the end. It was the adventures in their brains.
As humans, it’s so natural to compare ourselves to where we are at any given moment. But if where we are is building a giant tree house to a new land or forging our ways through wilderness in covered wagons with Pa and Ma, than what some dorky five year old says to us about our thrift store skirt really has very little significance.
Maybe for some of you this idea is obvious. But to me, it really came out of the blue and I am feeling so much gratitude: for books, for adventures, for education and Jane Eyre which, hooray to this last statement, my daughter is allowing me to read to her out loud this summer! In between the summer schools and the dishes, and the commuting and the braces, we will sit side by side and enter Jane’s world. We will talk about spirituality and class conflict, relationships and abuse, mansions and horses.
And mostly I will be grateful for Jane. Because she, like so many other characters, have helped my daughter focus on the things of life that matter most. And it’s not her looks or her money or her job. It’s her very spirit, bursting within her, reminding her that she is, indeed enough.
Happily Ticked Off Tip #50: Reading is an adventure into a world that keeps you from worrying too much about the crud in your own world that doesn’t matter. It’s a portal into bliss, confidence and courage.