(NOTE: I’m doing two entries today because I missed Saturday.)
I was six years old when my youngest brother was born. I can’t remember how I reacted when the people who were babysitting me informed me that I had yet another brother, but they claim I walked into the back yard and kicked a post. I have no memory of it.
I do, however, have a memory of when I first saw Brian. He was in mother’s lap in the front seat of our old white Ford sedan. This was in the days before car seats for babies. He was wearing a little blue outfit and cap, and he was red and crying. I was gone. He was the coolest thing I ever, ever, ever saw. I loved him from that moment on. He was my baby brother, and I was ready to introduce him to all the great things in the world, especially the world of stories.
I learned to read early, really early. My mother would read to me stories from The Child’s World, a collection of books with stories and poems. I also had my own collection of little books from my babyhood. One of them was titled “Are You My Mother?” I saw it the other day, and so I know it was written by P.D. Eastman. I paid no attention to such details when I was little, but (you know) now that I write, writers’ names mean something to me.
Anyway, when Brian was only a baby, I would hold him and read “Are You My Mother” to him. It is one of those great stories, the kind that have the perfect arc of plot. Kurt Vonnegut describes it as “a man falls in a hole.” The baby bird falls from the nest. It can’t fly back so it goes searching for its mother. It encounters other things, a kitten, a hen, a dog, a cow, and (genius) a front-end loader that the chick calls a “Snort.” The Snort puts the baby bird back in his nest, and his mother flies up and he knows immediately that she is his mother. It helps that she has a little hanky tied on her head. So…Brian was the first person I ever read a story. It was great. And in our very readerly household, he read right back to us. Even when he was little he could read big articles from Reader’s Digest at the kitchen table. He had a perfect sense of what the family would like. We still like to read to each other, though we don’t get to very often.
There’s a pleasure in reading. I know that all sorts of folks out there like to read. We just don’t read to each other much. That should change, right? We should try and bring that to more people. I don’t have “Are You My Mother?” anymore, but I DO have The Child’s World. I think I’m going to look at it again this summer.
Here is a picture of me from the summer when Brian was born. You will notice my uncanny resemblance to Tina Belcher. More on that later.