There are times when I really miss spending my days with school children. When I first started teaching, one of my wise teammates suggested that I keep a file in my desk drawer to keep the nice notes and cards from students and parents over the years. I took her advice and still have that treasured file, even though I’ve been retired for five years. While I was going through a box of my old teaching materials the other day, looking for something for my grandson, I pulled that file out and reread some of those notes and best wishes. One stood out for me and felt like the “compliment of a lifetime.” It had to do with reading aloud with my students, something that was the anchor of my day with all the different groups of children I worked with over my twenty-seven year career. A mom wrote it to me toward the end of a school year, just a short note on a nice little card, and it still warms my heart.
Since my daughter is going to miss reading books with you more than anything else in her school life so far — would you have any recommendations for summer reading, books you wish you would have had more time to read with the class?
Emmie gave her Dad a copy of “Danny Champion of the World” for his birthday, because it was so good she wanted to read it with him!!
My library posted this wonderful quote by David McCullough on Facebook the other day and I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea. It is true that books can change our lives and characters can have tremendous impact on us. In my own experience, I think the book and character of Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, read (the first time) when I was in the 7th Grade, had a lifetime impact on me. I read many of the books my older brother read, and I remember that after he finished Jane Eyre he told me he thought I would like that book. I most certainly did! I have vivid memories of scenes and impressions from the book. The strength and resilience of the character, Jane, made a large imprint on my both my heart and my psyche.
Since then, I have found many influential characters and more favorite books. But that first encounter with a character that I admired deeply, and was so influenced by, was a life-expanding experience for me. And for that, it will always be my “favorite book.”
Which is your special book and life-changing character?
Another reading challenge for 2019 has caught my eye. Meredith (@Dolce Bellezza) is hosting her 12th Japanese LIterature Challenge this year. I’ve participated in her challenges numerous times before and enjoyed each of them. I already have some Japanese literature on my Classics Club list, and two new books on my Kindle that would qualify for this challenge, so I decided to join…again.
This time, I am also going to add a few films to watch. Long ago, when my kids were little, I took a continuing education class at the University. It was called the “Art of Japanese Film” and I absolutely loved the class! And then, a few years ago, my husband and I bought a boxed set of DVDs of movies by the brilliant Japanese filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa, so Hubby and I are going to have our own Japanese Film Festival during this Challenge.
Books to Read:
- The Book of Tea, Kazuko Okakura
- Kokoro, Natsume Soseki
- Absolutely on Music, Haruki Murakami
- Sweet Bean Paste, Durian Sukegawa
Films of Akira Kurosawa to Watch:
- Stray Dog
- Seven Samurai
- The Hidden Fortress
Other Japanese Films to Watch:
- Miss Hokusai (we watched it on January 2, 2019) This is a film based on the life of the daughter of the great painter, Hokusai. It was adapted from a Manga series written and illustrated by Hinako Sugiura. It was directed by Keiichi Hara, and won numerous awards.
- Ugetsu (based on the book, Tales of Moonlight and Rain, by Akinari Udea)
- Spirited Away
- Our Little Sister
- My Neighbor Totoro
Click on the titles below to read my reviews of books I read for Dolce Bellezza’s previous Japanese LIterature Challenges.
- The Big Wave, by Pearl S. Buck
- Thousand Cranes, by Yasunari Kawabata
- The Bells of Nagasaki, by Takashi Nagai
- After the Quake, by Haruki Murakami
- Twenty-Four Eyes, by Sakae Tsuboi
- Tales of Moonlight and Rain, by Akinari Ueda
- Knit Kimono, by Vicki Square
- The Revenge of the Forty-Seven Samuari, by Erik Christian Haugaard
- Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata
- Summer of the Big Bachi, by Naomi Hirahara
- Kusamakura, by Natsume Soseki
- The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Agawa
One more thing…
My husband’s grandmother was a “picture bride” brought from Japan to Hawaii in the early 1900s as a bride for one of the Japanese plantation workers. If you are interested in that fascinating part of history, you can read my review of the book, Picture Bride, by Yoshiko Ushida. If you can find it, there is a beautiful little film called “Picture Bride,” that is well worth seeing. There are many stories of the 20,000 or so women who were the picture brides. They didn’t know their husbands-to-be before they were brought to Hawaii, and some to California. Each was chosen as a bride by their photo.
My husband’s grandmother and aunt are in this photo of plantation workers in Hawaii.
While looking through the books on my grandson’s bookshelf, I found an old family treasure–a book that brought back memories from a Christmas long ago. I remember the Christmas I was five years old…I got a nurse costume (which I wore until it didn’t fit any more), and a baby doll (still in a box downstairs). My younger brother, a toddler, burned his finger on a Christmas light (they got hot in those days), and my oldest brother got a chemistry set. I remember him reading some big words and sounding very grown up. Along with the chemistry set, he got a book to go along with it. That’s the book I found on my grandson’s bookshelf. (I think it came to me instead of my oldest brother because our son was the first grandchild in the family.) It brought back tons of memories to look through it. And yes, the grandson has tried some of the experiments in it. They are timeless even though the world has changed drastically since it was published.
Me on the Argentine pampas in 1967.
Although this has been a difficult year for me in many ways, a year of loss, it has also been a year of reading. Since July, reading has been my solace and a way to honor the memory of my special reading mother. I have read 91 books so far this year, unlike in1967 when I only read six books!
1967 was the year I was accepted into the American Field Service (now known as AFS Intercultural Programs) as an exchange student to Argentina. I spent a year there, which was an absolutely incredible life-defining experience. It was not an easy year, especially in those days before computers, cell phones, and instant world-wide communication with everyone you know! Letters often took two weeks. Phone calls home were wildly expensive so I only made one call home during the entire year. I was far away from home and relatively isolated as I went through the inevitable culture shock and adjustments to my new language and my new family. But after four months, I could speak fairly well, began to dream in Spanish, worked hard to begin reading in Spanish, and became more and more fluent in the language over the year. It was an amazing experience, to state it simply.
But one of the most difficult things for me that year, as an avid/obsessed reader, was that I had little access to books (in English), and, of course, my reading focus needed to be on learning and reading in Spanish. So over that year, I only read 6 books in English. Those six books are seared into my memory because each one was like a little oasis in the desert of my reading that year. It was very hard for me NOT to be able to read much that year, and it made me appreciate deeply the freedom of my yearly reading experience ever since. However, giving up reading-like-crazy for a year in order to have the experience of a lifetime…was so worth it!
Here are those six books:
As Anne says in L. M. Montgomery’s timeless classic, Anne of Green Gables, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” This October was a particularly beautiful one here in Oregon! It was also a wonderful reading month for me. I thoroughly enjoyed my reading for the Readers Imbibing Peril-XIII challenge, and Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon. Here are the covers of books read during this very successful reading month for me:
My husband and I also did a little bit of traveling this month. We spent a couple of days in the Seattle area where I met with my former teaching teammates and had a wonderful reunion lunch while Byron went on a bike ride. Also while in the area, he and I visited our favorite garden center, and the Yakima Fruit Market, and went out to eat at three of our old favorite restaurants. It was a great get-away!
We also spent a couple of days hiking in Silver Falls State Park. We enjoyed our first hike there so much we returned a week later and brought our daughter with us. We all loved hiking amongst gorgeous the autumn colors.
So all in all, it was a just a great October!
My mother’s Celebration of Life was held last Saturday and it was lovely. It turned out to be a perfect day weather-wise and the location in the Rose House at Red Butte Garden, looking out at the Rose Garden and my father’s memorial bench, was perfect, as well. My three brothers and I each spoke about her, and one of my sisters-in-law read some of my grandmother’s poetry. My oldest brother played “Amazing Grace” on his alto flute, and then we all visited with many friends and cousins, enjoying the beauty of the Garden, and saying goodbye, each in our own way, to this beautiful, amazing woman. She wrote the words in the caption to the photo below, words about her own mother. They say it so well for me, too!
“She lives in my heart and mind. Not always consciously, but she is so much a part of me that I can feel her with me always…”
I’ve shared a lot with you about my mother and recently about losing her. She was an integral part of this blog right from the beginning in 2007, was my focused audience for much of my writing, and was also a contributor with her own book reviews. It was another way for us to share our passion for reading with each other, and with you. I still have things she wrote in the last few years with this blog in mind, so I will continue to occasionally post about her and share those book responses as I return to my full-time blogging.
You have all been so kind in your thoughts and comments to me during this time of loss and mourning and celebration of a life well-lived, and I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
Forty-nine years ago today, I married my best friend. He and I were, and still are, kindred spirits. Both of us felt that kinship when we first met, but we also had proof sitting on our respective book shelves. Each of us owned a very old book from the same set of books….one on his shelf and a matching volume on mine. His was Pride and Prejudice (Reader, need I say more?), and mine was Silas Marner. For that reason, and of course many others, we decided WE were meant to be.
I am missing my Mom today…it’s her birthday and she would have been 99 years old! We lost her just three weeks ago, so celebrating her birthday today is a mixture of sadness and joy–she lived life to the fullest and left us with so many joyful memories!
After my Father passed away twenty-four years ago, I started a list of “Would Haves” because there were so many times when my brothers and I would say, “He would have loved this…or that.” I haven’t started a similar list for my Mother yet, but I will need to soon because there are already things happening that she would have liked! One thing for sure that will be on that list is the upcoming September release of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book, Leadership in Turbulent Times. That one would have been number one on her TBR list!
Happy birthday to my beautiful Mom, my special friend. I miss you!
The two photos above show how my Mom prepared for book club discussions. I brought these two books home with me after she passed away three weeks ago, and I will never move the colored tabs she put there because they are such a delight to see! This is the way she always prepared for her book club, whether the one she lead at the Mt. Olympus Senior Center for 14 years, or for the local library book club that came once a month to her assisted living facility. She loved to read and talk about books, and she prepared well for the group discussions often reading the book twice, always marking the important points she wanted to remember.