“What we have loved
others will love
and we will teach them how.”
As a teacher, the words above became somewhat of a mantra. I hung them up as a reminder about what I wanted the students in my classroom to experience. They were words that also caused me to pause and consider people whose passions helped me to develop my own.
This is my Grandma Eva. In this picture we are doing one of our favorite things…reading. More than any other person in my life she is responsible for awakening the learning-reading-thinking-writing-loving-language part of me. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in a home surrounded by books, a Kindergarten teacher for a mom, and have a long line of Language Arts teachers I’m also grateful for. I’ve been influenced by many people in this department, but none so tenderly and so significantly as the woman in the rocking chair above.
My grandparents lived a few blocks away. Daily trips were the norm, not the exception. The Palmyra Public Library was easily one of my childhood favorite places, in part because it usually included Grandma. We’d walk down Main Street, head to our separate shelves, take our time browsing for selections, and find the other person when finished.
When we left, she’d have her stack and I’d have mine. I think that’s part of what made my Grandma different than some of my other early literary influences. I had many people in my life who read to me, but not nearly as many who had an open, honest, real reading life themself. Her books were huge and watching her devour page after page made me hungry to do the same. I sort of considered returning books that you read in their entirety a badge of honor, but I always felt that my accomplishment paled in comparison to the stack my grandma placed on the circulation desk. I vowed many times that someday my stack would look like hers.
When we returned home from our trip, the words on the page were brought to life through my Grandma’s voice. It started simply enough. Classic fairy tales with long-haired princesses and peas under mattresses. Patricia Polacco’s Thundercake followed by a chance to try out the recipe for ourselves. Together we plowed through Laura Ingalls Wilder pausing only when my Grandma shared her own experiences of preparing for winter on a farm in the 1920s and 1930s.
More recently, I was reminded of my Grandma’s language loving legacy. Now in her 90s, her vision is significantly impaired. Turning pages is no longer an option so she enjoys the audio version instead. One afternoon, I found her laying down with her eyes closed while the book played. I teased her about taking a nap/resting her eyes. To which she replied, “Oh. I’m not sleeping. I’m picturing what the words would look like on the page.” Most of us visualize what’s taking place in the stories we read. Yet, my book loving Grandma took it a step further. She not only enjoyed the story, but the act of reading in and of itself.
During the month of September, I plan to share a list of children’s literature recommendations along with a rationale of why this is especially significant for those who desire to leave a lasting spiritual legacy in their family.
Yet, don’t miss the significance of Wordsworth’s words or my Grandma Eva when it comes to an even greater story and an even greater love. A while back, a friend pointed out that Wordsworth’s words sound a bit like the Great Commission. Yet as my Grandma’s example illustrates, sharing a genuine love for something only comes from loving it yourself. I was taught to love books by watching an example that was impossible to fake. I was taught to love language not through one trip to the library, but through what happened day in and day out. I was taught to love reading, not just from going to school, but from seeing it modeled intimately next to someone I was close to. What my grandma loved, I now love, and her example taught me how.