Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Little Locksmith

This book was amazing. It's a memoir written by Katharine Butler Hathaway who was born in 1890 and lived in Salem, Massachusetts. She contracted spinal tuberculosis when she was 5 years old and had to be strapped to a board 24 hours a day until she was 15 to keep her spine straight so she wouldn't become what we would know as a hunchback, which is a word that is actually never used in the book, but referred to. The treatment worked and she could walk around normally, but she was still "deformed."

It's about her coming of age and her amazing acceptance of her situation and joy in life. It's very interesting because you can see her forming and changing her own opinions as she writes, and even including the thoughts and opinions that she recognizes later as being naive.

The setting for a lot of the book is Castine, Maine, where she buys a big house that no one would expect her to buy and fixes it up. But it's not much about home improvement. It's mostly about the people in her life during that time and a whole lot about the beauty she finds all around her in the world. It also has to do with her belief that because she didn't have a normal body she would never get to experience romantic love, and giving herself to her writing as a kind of substitute.

What I loved most about it was her uncrushable joy and love for life, though her circumstances were not ideal. She was intent on making her life a good one, even though her path wasn't ordinary.

I seriously could not recommend this book enough. And I found the epilogue especially amazing, so read all the way to the end if you get this one!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

When I was a kid, there was a neighborhood near my house where everyone would decorate their houses to the nines for Christmas. I remember driving through there oohing and ahhing every year.

This year we visited my hometown for New Year's, and on our way back home I thought it would be fun to drive through that neighborhood to see if we could catch any Christmas lights still hanging.

We turned the corner at the home of my old ballroom dance partner. He also played the violin, so occasionally I joined him on the cello for a local performance. We also enjoyed singing together, so I had happy memories in that home.

A few houses down was the house with 12 kids, 4 who were close enough to my age that I was friends with them. I didn't spend a whole lot of time at that house, but the few memories I have were good ones. I remember gathering with a big group of friends, mostly from our Madrigals group, to play night games in the big backyard.

Back to 2010, while my husband and son were scoping out the remaining Christmas decor, I was reliving little pieces of my adolescence.

A few more houses down was Dorothy's house. Dorothy was one of my favorite, formative friends. Sadly for me, I seem to have lost touch with her. I still have such happy, warm feelings for her and when I was telling Dave all about her I felt like I still saw her all the time. But somehow we haven't connected in the last few years.

So I wasn't expecting what I saw as we got closer. Where I expected to see familiar cars and glowing windows, I saw emptiness and darkness. There was a for sale sign in the yard and it looked like no one was living there.

I don't know the story. I think her dad is still working in my hometown, so they must have moved somewhere close by. They probably built their dream house in the country or something.

It's not that I would have knocked on the door if they would have been there. I just wanted to know that they were still there.

I remember sitting around the kitchen drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows. I remember laying out late at night on the trampoline. I remember teasing her little brother. I remember her giant walk-in closet filled with a wardrobe fit for an outdoorsy princess. I remember Marge (Dorothy's Mom), who was goofy and so inviting, ratting our hair and then sculpting it into beehives for a church dance. I remember talking about boys and whatever else high school girls like to talk about while her dad sat in his chair in the family room, acting as though he wasn't listening. Maybe he wasn't. I remember sitting around the piano with her family as one of them played.

In my family, no one moves. If you raise a family in a house, you stay there. My grandparents are still living in the house that my dad grew up in from the time he was born. And all of my dad's living siblings still live close by, some right in the same neighborhood, in the homes where they raised their families.

So even though I know it has no real effect on the rest of my life, I hate learning that my good friends' families have moved from the homes where my happy memories were formed. Did they even think about preserving my happy childhood?!

This goes for you too, Missy. (I think Missy reads this.) I'll forever remember "Make-out parties" where no one actually made out. And sharing one bed with Missy and Danielle during a sleepover, and waking up to a surprise that I'm not sure I can share here. We were all sworn to secrecy, but it's been at least 12 years, so maybe the embargo has been lifted. I can't contain my bursts of laughter right now as I remember that morning.

It took a lot of nerve for your parents to go and sell the place.

I'm the kind of person who doesn't let go of friendships. Once someone has meant something to me, I want to be friends forever and ever and ever and ever. And maybe I feel the same way, to a degree, about important places. Sometimes it's hard for me to accept that not everyone feels that way, especially when it means that they don't need my friendship the same way I still want theirs.

But you know what they say. Life goes on. Even mine. I still think of old friends and old places with fondness, but right now is what really matters. My old friends might not think of me every day, but I have new friends who become dearer to me every day, who enrich my life and make me feel happy. I have a wonderful, kind husband who I grow more in love with every day and who amazes me with his desire to do good in this world and be a good person. I have a miracle little boy who I thank God for every day, who makes me smile every single day and wants me to snuggle him to sleep every single night. And I have parents who I have always been close with, who still let me know every day that they love me.

So go on. Sell your houses if you must. I've got a good thing going right here, right now.