|Image credit: JerrySpinelli.com|
“She was bendable light: she shone around every corner of my day.”
Tonight, I had an extraordinary evening. I don't mean that generically; I mean that two specific things occurred that made it wonderful and beyond ordinary, things I hope I will remember forever.
The First thing: I read the novel Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli. This book was loaned to me by my sister, a human being who is beyond words, who I had the rare occasion to see last week. We weren't discussing books, nor had any idea of suggested reading come up. She just handed it to me. A small part of me was annoyed, only because I haven't had (made) time to finish the other novel I'd been carrying around with me. The rest of me was elated, and I read the first page right there in the chair.
So tonight, having made plans to go out with my friends from work, and having been subsequently ditched by said friends, I decided I'd crack open Stargirl. My sister reported it as a three hour read, and though if I've ever read a novel in a single sitting I can't remember, I at least decided to get through a serious chunk of it.
Three hours, in fact, was a fair estimate, even at my slow reading rate (I don't bother to try reading quickly; I read to myself about the same speed that I read aloud). I knew in the first few chapters that Spinelli's art was sufficient to draw the same emotions experienced during The Book Thief, and midway through the tears started. Although the novel is short, and the story considerably simpler than that of Liesel Meminger, it was still written with the same passion, both tragic and elated, and by the end of the novel, I was bawling like a little child.
Tonight I made another bridge, and tapped those emotions that sit for too long beneath a pathetic veneer of mundane everydayness, a "world of gray nothings," as the novel's narrator says. And I connected with my sister, and her bridges. And I fell in love all over again with such a joyous thing. It's hard and disappointing to realize that I've become so 'mature' that I had forgotten the wondrous things a book can do, and when I came downstairs to the family, with my reddened eyes and my runny nose to don my shoes and find the dog's walking stuff, I hope they all noticed, and may yet wonder what power exists in books, so that they, too, might discover it on their own.
The Second thing: I took that walk with every intention of being immersed in a dark late summer night, devoid of anything interesting, so that Stargirl could sink in even deeper. The night failed me. Also, my daughter asked if she could come, and she is hard to refuse. Though I love this little girl more than anything, her presence is distracting with such a chore as mulling over the happenings of Mica, Arizona when Stargirl Caraway appears. So it goes. So the dog and I went out with my daughter, instead.
That wasn't the only change of plans. We hadn't yet left the driveway when we both noticed a large storm off to the west. The thunder rumbled vaguely but the lightning was definite. A flash occurred somewhere in the sky no less frequently than every second, yet the sky directly above was clear. As we walked, we watched it and wondered: it was a marvel, like a great feature film projected onto a vast screen solely for our benefit. We walked and talked, and we could see the storm moving, and I guessed maybe it would miss us. We discussed what might be happening only a handful of miles away: the terrible rain and awful racket of thunder, and how different it was from what we were experiencing. We talked about the book I'd read.
I asked my daughter if she thought it was weird that a book would make me cry. She said yes, almost with embarrassment. Then I described a box of crayons to her that was filled with only muted and dull colours: greys and browns and darks. I asked her to imagine using only that box for days and days, for so long you started to see everything in the world as one or another of only those shades. Then what would happen if one day, you were loaned those forgotten colours: reds and yellows and oranges, so you could draw a sun; and green and blue and violet, so you could draw a rainbow. And imagine what picture would emerge that day, that hour, when you finally had access to the brightly coloured crayons once more, especially if it were only for a little while, and you knew you'd have to return them.
And she understood where my emotions came from: she suddenly knew that all the happiness and sadness that might have caused my tears over the novel weren't a bad thing, but something wonderful, something necessary. And we both grew in that explanation and realization. And with the backdrop of lightning flashes above us, we both made it home before the rain came (I was wrong about it missing us), but as human beings more whole and more strongly bonded than before.
So tonight was extraordinary, and when my buddies and I do finally get together, I owe them every round of drinks, every appetizer, and more, because what has happened to me in the last handful of hours is something I never want to forget. I want to remember these sensations and emotions and sensitivities the rest of my life.
And I hope my daughter does too. I never want to lose what I shared with her tonight.