Jae Leslie, aka MaryRead the Pirate Queen (maryread) wrote,
Jae Leslie, aka MaryRead the Pirate Queen

to write and read comes by nature

This morning I woke up again remembering a book I had when I was about nine, that I found in some second-hand bookstore in either the Boston area or downstate New York. I think it was called Mary Jane's Cook Book and it concerned a lonely little Edwardian girl who makes friends with all the kitchen utensils, apparently while the servants are out, and the smallest saucepan and the toasting fork are her special buddies. They all dance around and sing songs to amuse her, like those Disney candlesticks and teapots, and then by the end of every chapter they teach her how to cook something. It seems to me she might even have learned to make Tomato Aspic.

I wake up wishing, thinking this would have been a really good book to hold on to. And think, at least the eggs and toast weren't growing little arms and legs and dancing around too, like the Magic Pudding (another book I acquired at about the same time). Our little Miss sat down and cried/ And called her Sauce Pan to her side/ "I feel so berry bad inside/ I wish you'd (h)eat some sugar" That's one of the songs -- Saucepans are of course known for their quick wit.

I've been reading an awful lot of novels lately, instead of painting or writing anything. Dark Quartet; The Story of the Brontes by Lynne Reid Banks, quite excellent although a tad depressing; Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, heroic kidlit; The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson, highly recommend; The Penelopiad, a very quick read, and Alias Grace, not, both by Margaret Atwood. The more clueless online reviews of that Penelope's view of the Odyssey (kind of an obvious project if you give half a thought to it) reminded me that it never hurt to have my dad read the Odyssey to me and my half brother as bedtime reading when we were twelve. Wine-dark seas and all that.

The first time I was reading at this pace was probably about the time I had that little girls' cookbook. I used to walk to the public library branch after school, past the carousel in the park, and check out the limit of ten books every week, until I had worked my way through the whole collection, or the school year ended, whichever came first. I had two years in a row with that library though (Mushroom Planet, Danny Dunn, Andre Norton, and most everything in between), as we didn't actually change addresses but only moved upstairs to downstairs in the two-flat at 16 Grand Boulevard. Binghamton, New York. Mr S says I shouldn't be remembering all this, and he can't imagine what it was like; it should have faded uneventfully into the past.

But that was around the time that every summer we would drive across country to Oklahoma, where my mom was working on her dissertation at OU; at the end of the summer with my grandma or my aunt I would be parked in a new school for a month or so, as the school year began -- one year it was in Norman OK, another it was in Wichita Kansas, and I forget the names of the schools and the teachers, which now can be seen to be simple daycare, with extra scholastic hoops for me to jump through -- and then as the college term began, I was pulled out of that school and moved back east, to another new house, another new school, and coming in a month late to start the year yet again. The New Kid again. It was not such a big deal in second grade (Cabot School, Miss Robertson) where I actually had a couple of friends by the end of the year again, but by fourth grade (Thomas Jefferson School, Miss Houlihan) the little social systems of non-transient residents have hardened. Children can be ruthlessly cruel to outsiders, and in middle-class suburbs in those days people didn't come and go like that. (My little brother was an infant at that time, and by the time he was eight at least the cross-country moving stopped and he was landed in San Diego for the next thirty-odd years.)

As a parent myself, not to say a scholar of child development, I now find it appalling. There has never been such continuity of curriculum across this country that missing a few weeks could be in any way worse than changing school systems. But let me not start ranting on the general topic of Education.

No point questioning why on earth it was necessary, as there were and are highly rational grown-up reasons for all of it. But I think I was beginning unhappily to get the picture. I should have made more trouble. Instead I read a lot.

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