I wonder how my mother chose books for me to read when I was young. Did she just randomly choose things off the shelf? Hand them to me, say, here, I thought you would like this? Did I pick my own books out? My love of reading must have begun somewhere, with someone else’s help, but I can’t remember how it all began.
In a few weeks I will be moving out of my childhood home, into a new place that will be completely mine, which means I have spent two days organizing and boxing up all my books. I think so far I have gotten at least two-thirds of them into boxes. While sorting the books by author and publisher and size, I came across Anastasia Krupnik, a book by Lois Lowry that I first read when I was probably about eight. (The danger of boxing up books is that you always find yourself sitting down and reading half of them).
Anastasia is ten years old. She wears owlish glasses (long before Harry Potter came on the scene) and has hair the color of Hubbard squash. (I never figured out what Hubbard squash was, or what color it is). She is always making lists of things she loves and hates, and writing poems. Her mother is a painter who goes around barefoot and daubed in paint and her father is a poet/English professor, bearded and balding and who wears eyeglasses, just like his daughter. (There are other, later books, but this was the first of them, and the first one I read).
I have never given much thought to Wordsworth, before or even after reading this book, but there is a moment, when Anastasia and her father are discussing the poem "I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud," (which I have never read), and that line which goes, "The inward eye which is the bliss of solitude," and that has stayed with me all my life. I read it now and think about Anastasia's grandmother, alone in her old age, lost in the solitude of memory, and how this book is about being ten years old and learning about things like love and death and birth for the first time, when your eyes are new to it all.
It is strange how your perception of the books you loved when you were a child changes when you revisit them years later. When I was ten I wanted to be like Anastasia, writing lists (but not poetry), having crushes on older (by older I mean sixth-grade) guys. Somehow after all this time I find myself thinking about what it might be like to be like her mother, Katherine. Married to a poet/professor. Having long debates with my husband about first loves and telling my precocious young daughter about why I married her father. Not now. Perhaps in another sixteen years I will come back to this book and see how my own life has changed. How will I read it then?