Summer reading

Books inherited from a sister in law of English literature

This summer was interesting. We planted a french instensive vegetable garden. I left our home for Martha’s Vineyard by myself. My daughter didn’t want to go with me this year. Her friends were paramount in her life, and two weeks on a deserted island with her mother were not in her plans. Will and I rallied to figure out this complex summer. He would stay home, take care of his two older children, and our dogs, house, and work on his writing. I would go off for a vacation all by myself! I thought it sounded wonderful.

The weeks leading up to the big trip were filled with lots of summer plans, most of them invovling my daughter and facilitating her plans.

One night, Will and I had gone into my old studio at my parent’s house to look for things, and try to organize. I found boxes of books there that are my sister in law’s from her studies in College, being an english major. She now writes, and has always written and read, and takes the greatest pleasure of such pursuits. I remember one dinner at my parent’s house where my sister in law Betsy, and her sister recited passages from some great book between them. I don’t know if it were Emily Dickinson, or some other great author’s book, but our family sat in awe of their mutual love of literature.

So, one hot summer night, my daughter had Will and I running from one place to the next. The mall, the movies, picking up a friend, etc, and we had just about had it for the night. We sat out in the darkness at our favorite outside dining table, staring at the illuminated face of my iphone waiting for a text from our daughter telling us when she’d be home. We had advocated for her to take the bus ( huge gasp) to the mall and back. We thought about kids from Manhattan who take public transportation all the time. Why do kids from suburbia feel they have to be transported by a chauffered limosine driven by parents eager to meet their every whim?

So waiting there in the dark by candle light, Will noticing my slight nerves, brought out the huge arsanal of books from my sister in law’s collection from college. He placed them on the center of the table in stacks. He suggested we read randomly from the books, and see what happens. We did this, and soon the gate clanged and our daughter was home.

We invited the two to sit with us and read from the books at hand. My daughter balked, looked at me with much frustration, but her friend, Francis, actaully had a look on her face of happiness. My daughter, explained that her friend didn’t like to read outloud, and they had just come back from seeing a Tom Cruise film for Christ’s sake, but eventually because of Francis we toured the books in a round robin fashion, each reading from a random passage from a book taken randomly, and read until the reader felt it was time to stop. Francis was the one who enjoyed it the most, who read most feverently, it was us, who sat in awe of her ability to read a passage with intent and passion.

That night was one of my favorites from the summer, even though I think my daughter hardly remembers it at all. Hopefully someday she will remember that awkward half hour or two around a wooden table hearing her best friend read from some of the great passages of literature. The new text that was uttered was from many authors, there were tears shed.

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About Sarah Seager

I am an artist that works and lives in the wilds of Los Angeles.
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