Thursday, October 8, 2009

Going Home

Almost two weeks ago, I was up in my hometown of Lockport, NY, for my (gulp!) forty-year high school reunion. The Class of 1969 of Lockport Senior High generally has a good time at these things, and this time around was no exception. Over the course of two evenings there was a lot of talking, laughing, hugging and reminiscing. I saw a few people I’ve stayed in touch with, and others whom I hadn’t seen in at least ten years (and probably more). My husband took a great photo of five of us who all lived in the same neighborhood until my family moved just before fifth grade (and four of the five of us had started together in nursery school!). And for the first time in twenty years, my best-friend-from 7th-grade-through-senior-year, Ginny Cook McEldowney, and I were in the same place at the same time. That alone made the ten-hour drive from Northern VA to Lockport worth it.

We did other “going home” things while in Lockport. Doug Farley, director of the Erie Canal Discovery Center, had arranged a signing for me at the Center, of my picture book Abbie In Stitches. For my birthday, my mother took us up the the gorgeous Shea’s Theater in Buffalo to see the touring company of Chicago. I spent some time antiquing with my aunt. And we had some lovely quiet, “just there” time, first in Lockport, then for a couple of days with my mother-in-law on the farm in Savannah, NY (halfway between Rochester and Syracuse). As usual, I was not ready to come back to the hecticness of Northern Virginia.

Just as it was so good to spend time with friends of my childhood, it’s also been good recently to spend some time with the books of my childhood. All summer, in among trying to keep up with all the recent books on my to-read list, I re-read many of the books I loved as a kid. Many of these had been my mother’s before they were mine, and so are even more old-fashioned today then they were never mind how many years ago. Still, they were some of the books that instilled in me the passion for reading, the love of story—books whose characters became as alive for me this summer the minute I started reading as they did the first time I encountered them. Here are some of the titles—do you know any of them?

The Oz books. We had all of them—most had been my mother’s, two had been her mother’s. Frank Baum, Ruth Plumley Thompson, John R. Neill and a couple of others (forgive my memory, please, and forgive me, too, for not running down to the bookshelves to check those last names) created a world I’ll gladly fall into anytime.

The Secret Garden
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
The Secret Garden
The Little Bookroom (wonderful stories by Eleanor Farjean)
Little House on Wheels (Marjorie Hayes)
Mary Poppins
Understood Betsy (Dorothy Canfield)
Jack and Jill (my favorite Louisa May Alcott book)
Thornton Burgess’ animal stories
The Five Children trilogy (E. Nesbit)
The Cammie books by Jane McIlvaine. (The books I thought of when I learned, five years ago, that we were moving to Virginia. Alas, I fear that most of Cammie’s Virginia has now been paved over…)
National Velvet (rivaling The Black Stallion and Black Beauty as the ultimate horse book)

I re-read all of these this summer. And it was good to go home.