I have always enjoyed reading. It really doesn’t matter to me if it is a book or the newspaper. I find the world has so much interesting written about it that anything written should be looked into whether you agree with it or not. More times than not I will find a thought or a fact that I had not l known before. So in doing the reading I learn something and that is a fair trade every time.
The other night however I picked up a book that my mom read to me when I was a child. “Charlottes’ Web”. Since seeing that book I have been thinking that it is more than safe to say most adults had a book or nursery thymes, or just told stories by a parent or both parents when they were young. I can recall hearing the line “come on to bed and I will tell you a story.” Most times this worked and got this child into bed.
I ask my wife about the stories she told our children and got “Good Night Moon” “The House That Jack Built “and a variety of nursery rhymes. She is also very well read and gave our children a wide variety of literature for bed time. Now as for me I was raised on Joel Chandler Harris’ “Uncle Remus: which by today’s standards would be considered politically incorrect but in my youth I cheered for the rabbit as he always won out over the fox or the bear and that was what I saw in the stories or fables. It is like Bugs Bunny always coming out on top. Mom would read to me from a collection of poems and stories by James Whitcomb Riley. (I will say it now. I found his material not too interesting.) The thing was mom was very good at telling a tale and with this man’s material I would fall off to sleep relatively quick. Sometimes my brother Ben would tell me a story or if I was lucky he would get the latest Mickey Mouse comic book and read to me from that. Not very educational but very enjoyable to me. I think Ben liked my selection on this also.
I have ask a few folks and I got almost always a different story they heard. Goldilocks and the three bears to Dr. Seuss. The one true point was they were read to at bedtime. So I guess it is safe to say we got an early start on liking to hear the written word and whether we knew it or not we were learning that more would be learned if we learned to read and use that basic part of education. Even as we speak my wife and I get to read things like “Good Night Moon” to our grandchildren and it is easy to see they enjoy hearing it. I know my son and daughter in law both keep the reading and stories coming to their children at bedtime for certain.
Now earlier I spoke of a book my mom read to me. The title was “Charlotte’s Web”. I loved this story as it took place on a farm and all the animals in it took on personalities. I remember that part because as I had said my mom was one that when she was reading to me could easily take on a voice and personality of each character to the point I was more than entertained. Why shoot she even got Templeton the rat to become a character to be liked. For me this was hard to believe as on our farm we had rats and I never ever saw any rat become likable.
The main character was Wilbur the pig and he made very close friends with a spider named Charlotte. Again we had spiders on our farm and I never saw anything about them that gave reason to become friends. But Wilbur did. I’m certain most of you have read this book or seen the animated film so you all know that over the summer Charlotte so to say saved Wilbur’s’ bacon several times.
So every night mom would come to my room which was the attic room that I shared with my brother Ben. Mom had made me a bedside stand out of an old wooden Orange crate and sewed together a cover for the stand so as to hide the crate and then set a lamp on it. It gave me cause to feel like I was growing up a little. With that lamp mom would read me a chapter every night. I won’t lie to you folks. I was having a great time and mom had no problem at all getting me to go to bed. The story was great and with each chapter I would begin to get excited about the next chapter. I think even brother Ben was going to bed a little early as he wanted to hear the story also even though he wouldn’t admit it.
This was going along so well that as we all know there is always something to go wrong to take away from it. Well mom got to the last chapter and with a voice that sounded so happy and cheery she began to sound serious and then it happened. Charlotte DIED! What? How can the spider that saved them all die? I was dumb founded and became very sad of course. I mean the spider died! Mom went on with the ending of the book and told me how Charlottes’ baby spiders all hatched in the spring and Wilbur was happy. She tried to sell a happy ending to me as hard as she could but to no avail. I just couldn’t get over Charlotte passing away.
That night I had a hard time going to sleep and if that wasn’t bad enough I think I heard Ben crying softly. In the morning mom and Ben got me up and tried very hard to cheer me up and get me ready for school. This worked for a while but then I began to think about the demise of Charlotte and I became possibly sadder than ever. When we got to school I went to my class and my teacher a lady who was a spinster who I don’t think understood this part of being a kid. She saw me crying and asks me what was wrong and was ready to console me. But when I said the spider died she became wide eyed and ask me “what?” So I told her again. She said wait right where I was.
Mom was a teacher at that time and my teacher went to mom and ask her what in the world is your son talking about? All he keeps saying is the spider died. So mom explained the entire thing about the book and how the last chapter saddened me as the main character passed away. She then told mom she understood and told mom that it would be best if I were to go home and come back the next day. So mom agreed and took me home. You know what? On the way home I all of a sudden began to feel happy and by the next day I was coping with the world again.
I still have that book and I read some of it to my children and they too enjoyed it. My sister Peg gave it to me for a birthday present several years later with an inscription inside the cover. It said “don’t ever forget the spider died.” I haven’t forgotten a thing about that except whatever you read your children at bedtime seldom will never be forgot. Some advice would be to read in advance and make sure it has a happy ending.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you are interested in reading more of his stories they can be found in his books ‘There are Places to Remember” and’ Memories ARE from the Heart.” He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.