Although I loved to read and spent many summer days at our local public library, there were many childhood classics that I had missed reading as I grew up. Books that were pivotal for others just never ended up in my hands, and here I was - about to start a career as a librarian without having completely read the canon of Important Children's Literature.
I started slowly reading some of the books I had missed. The first was Anne of Green Gables, and Oh! The joy of reading Anne's breathless lengthy speeches as an adult - I adored the book, and have used the name Idlewild wherever I could since. As someone who loves to wonder at the beauty of the outdoors, the quiet forest where Anne meets with her bosom friend always sounded like a place I would love, and the language reminded me a bit of one of the lines from the famous Mary Oliver poem The Summer Day (I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which I have been doing all day). Anne brought me back to the simplicity and complexity of being a child, of finding your place in the world, and all of the emotions that it brings.
Another book that has been on my to-read list was Charlotte's Web. How is it possible that I never read this beautiful book as a child? My son and I are listening to the audiobook as we commute to school, read by E.B White himself, a delightful grandfatherly voice telling this gentle tale, complete with the occasional page turning rustle caught on the audio.
It has been a joy to share this story with my 8 year old. I sneak glances at him in the rearview mirror to see him smile as the goose speaks with his signature repeating voice, or see him thoughtfully gazing out the window as Wilbur worries about so much, even though he is so young.
This story has been a lovely distraction, even just for 25 minutes each way to school, from my own worries. Jumping into the simplicity of a little farm with a terrific pig, a clever spider and a barn full of other characters has saved me daily by reminding me what is really important. Helping others, discovering who we really are with the support of our friends, celebrating the simple joys of life - like running through the grass, or snuggling up for a good nap, or even just appreciating the food that we eat each day. I am, like Wilbur, able to spend a bit of time each day contemplating what it's like to be alive.
Stories remind us who we are and why we are here, and I'm so thankful that part of my job is to listen to them - both old and new - so I can pass them on to the child who needs them most.