Monday, August 18, 2008

"For More Than Ourselves"

The search for matching comforters, wondering who will bring the 'fridge, the microwave, the X-Box. How will all my clothes fit in that closet? Will I get into the fraternity I want? The list goes on and on in a familiar chorus repeated by anxious college-bound freshmen year after year.
While friends were attending good-bye parties before everyone scatters, while moms were searching Target for dorm furnishing bargains, while class '08 mates were hitting the lake "one last time" and posting Facebook pics of all their adventures; my son was learning how to salute upperclassmen, eat his dinner with 5 chews per bite while keeping his eyes firmly focused on the plate's crest, was getting up at 5 am every day to the sound of a bugle. He was crawling under barbed-wire in the mud, sleeping without ac, going to his postbox wishing for letters in a generation that has no concept of stamps. He was looking forward to each of 3 ten minute phone calls. He was too tired at night, after countless push-ups, memorizing and reciting books worth of knowledge, running 5 miles, shooting guns, throwing grenades,enduring tear gas without a mask, to even dream of home...and all that he was missing...choosing a hard path and desiring to live "for more than ourselves".

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sweet Smell of Summer Reading

Before there were public library branches in every neighborhood, there was, in my town, a privately-organized volunteer-run library. Located in the basement of a nearby old building, this library provided my first summer reading experience. I remember with fondness sitting in the street level basement windowsill on summer mornings while my mother did her volunteer shift. The quiet (yes, libraries were deathly quiet in those days...sigh) and the musty smell of a library book imprinted me.
One year I went through about 20 Nancy Drew books, and my mom continued to buy them as quickly as I could turn the pages. In recent times there have been periods of Agatha Christie. No debate, mysteries rule.
Every year I try to reproduce the summer reading feeling...the laziness...the late nights. In June, I scored a 1941 hardback novel. Murder Gives a Lovely Light. The author: obscure. The "Crime Club": now defunct. The smell: that wonderfully musty, library-book smell drew me in again.