Book 68 of 80
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!!
Saturday, I braved the mall during two department store yearly sales — stupid, stupid, stupid — to buy myself an Allende book. (Well, and, more importantly, to buy my son a new copy of his favorite book “Good Dog Carl”; which was ruined beyond salvation by our dog Einstein who took the liberty to pee on it one afternoon. I firmly believe our dog developed some sort of complex against the rather intelligent Rottweiler Carl and emptied his bladder directly on the smug dog’s face out of spite.)
It took thirty minutes to park and someone almost ran me and the stroller over as we tried to cross from the parking lot to the sidewalk. In a cross walk, mind you. So, when some older man held the door open for me at the entrance to the bookstore, I was feeling a bit weepy over the sudden demonstration of kindness.
Of course, Elliott threw a fit in the children’s section. He loves books. He wants to hold all of them — ones he owns already, and new ones. His grabby little hands acquired an I Spy book, something with a duck on the cover, and a Charlie Brown Christmas book before I could even wheel him to the section with “Good Dog Carl.” We had the auspicious timing of trying to navigate the board book section — which is located next to the stage — during reading time. Parents with well-behaved children sat and listened to an older lady read books about Fall. As I tried to dump the books he had grabbed along the way, Elliott screamed, “Noooooo!!! Books. Books. Books. Books.”
The only one he refused to part with was Charlie Brown. “Pumpkin book,” he told me with great glee. “Christmas book,” I sighed, but shrugged — he recognized Charlie Brown from our constant reading of the “Great Pumpkin” during the month of October. If I could wheel him back through romance and science-fiction, maybe I could avoid recognizable characters.
We made a pit-stop for Allende. There she was — my choice for Chile — and as an Allende virgin, I decided “The House of the Spirits” should be my first. But as I held the thick book in my hand, and thumbed through the small print for each page — all 450 of them…I felt myself deflating. Could I do it? Would this put me behind? As I pondered, Elliott cleared an entire shelf of books with one swoop — narrowing in on one with a picture of a cat on the cover. “Meow. Meow. Meow,” he hummed, rubbing his hand over the picture before dropping it to the ground and heading for a bright colored spine. “Purple. Purple. Mama, purple.”
A woman glared at me as she walked by, stepping over the growing pile of ‘A’ authors collecting at the wheels of my rickety umbrella stroller. And I just stared off into space, holding “The House of the Spirits” in my hand, tentative. Then I saw the spine of another book, buried between “Daughter of Fortune” and “Island Beneath the Sea” — behemoths (and not set in Chile, fortunately, I suppose) — “Portrait in Sepia.” At a mere 300 pages, I scanned the back cover. It said: “In nineteenth-century Chile…” and that was all I needed. I cleaned up after my son; waited twenty-minutes in the checkout line (in front of a man on a cell-phone having a full-on conversation about custody issues while his disheveled children waited to buy a daily cat calendar and books about magic tricks) and then got out of the mall as fast as I possibly could.
Then yesterday morning, I dove right in: Reading through an afternoon of football, reading during my son’s nap, reading during Elliott’s two baths. And despite the fact that Isabel Allende’s book was picked solely by length, I’m feeling pretty confident in my decision. Whether or not Allende enthusiasts would have encouraged me to start here, I am enjoying her prose — and lamenting only occasionally the two-page paragraphs.
Today, my students are plugging through short stories for our unit on Romanticism — as they annotate and dissect Poe, Hawthorne, and Irving — I’m reading too. After my moaning yesterday about feeling like this is an unachievable venture…if I can make up ground this week…I might be doing better than I thought.
But I have a new goal: Avoid the mall during the holidays. Some books, no matter how badly I want them, are not worth it.