Books my mother had. Books when I was a child. Books my children
listened to. Books for my granddaughter.
Somewhere I have Aesop’s fables in French where the crow loses his
cheese to the fox and vanity. Of course there’s also the grasshopper
and the ant, although I have always wanted to ask the ant if she
didn’t enjoy listening to the grasshopper’s song and if she thought
she should get that for free.
Listen, Some are calling me now. With his voice rising up above the
sound of Indian drums, Tree in the Trail tells me that around 80 years
ago he was a reward for an essay describing my pet silver fox which
my parents helped me write for a nature magazine. I must say, tree in
the trail remarks, in the photo with your hair cut short you look like
a little boy and the caption says “Foxy loxy and his master..” Guess
they didn’t know Erika was a girl’s name.
On a shelf downstairs are the weekly editions of fairy tales from
throughout the world. I wonder, says one, if Claudio and Lamberto
would have chosen me or would have preferred some other type of story.
Still, remember when Marilyn, the Gonzaga student who was staying with
you one summer, read me aloud and the boys laughed and made fun of her
when she said the maiden had lost her lamb or agnello, when what she
had lost was her ring, her anello.
Raggedy Ann proudly reminds me that when I was ten I decorated the
walls of my room with mushroom dwellings and fairies copied from her
book. So many of our friends of then, the pied piper, Rapunzel,
Sleeping Beauty and all those princesses and princes, lived in books,
many borrowed from the library.
If I listen carefully I can hear The Cat in the Hat and One fish, two
fish, express their opinions. You’re quite right, they are saying, we
were for two small boys although we have an idea their mother enjoyed
us most. Don’t forget us, say Ezra the Elephant. And Lovable Lyle is
very specific. I know I’m an alilgator but I’m lovable just the same.
You haven’t looked at us for ages. Same here, says the boy who
wouldn’t say his name. So I remind them that there aren’t any little
people around since Costanza, who delighted in them, is now 21 and in
Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore. Robert Louis Stevenson and the birdie
with a yellow bill that hopped upon my window sill. Alice through the
Looking Glass and the Jabberwocky. The owl and the pussy-cat in their
pea-green boat. And some in Italian, like Alfonso Gatto. Se il Mar
Giallo fosse giallo prenderemmo a secchi il mare per bollire la
polenta – If the Yellow Sea were yellow we would take pails of sea in
which to boil polenta, or Ogni uomo è stato un bambino – every man
was once a child – and perhaps we all still are at heart.