Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores
Photographer Patricia Gulick

Saturday, May 4, 2013

2-28-13 RMB Reading 

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

In the “Keep the Horse Between Your Legs” chapter of Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser, you say “Reading, like breathing, is energy, ideas, life. I am a promiscuous reader. Military history, biography, novels, poetry, your grocery list, I don’t care. If it’s scribbled or in justified type, I’ll read it….Mother, a nonreader, never minded that I’d snuggle up in a corner and read.”

Reading is magical. I like how you describe it.

The one summer that my sister did not accompany me to Alabama and the other siblings were out of the house on their own adventures, my stepmom took me to the library to help me pass the hot, quiet days of summer with library books. Some of my best memories are those drives to and from the library with her. We chatted in the car about what we had checked out. I was never talkative, but I ate up this little bit of adult attention.

I read about the paranormal (of course), the history of spy activity in wars and biographies. You mentioned your mother never censored your books. My parents never did either. I found it interesting that the adults surrounding me seemed to think it beneath them to converse with the children, yet I was allowed to read books that contained far more adult material than anything discussed in the house by anyone.

I read about life, death, and all the mysteries in between. It matured me.

I now take my three boys to the library weekly. Sometimes their only interest is to play games on the computer or check out a DVD. If that is the case too often, I’ll insist they pick out a book and read it to the rest of us. I find it enchanting that they don’t complain. Kids crave attention and to have three other people listen while you speak can be a great rush. I hope it brings them a comfort level in speaking in groups in the future, whether in a boardroom or an auditorium. They all can use the practice in learning vocabulary, spelling, etc. All three are all “boy”. They would much rather be out blowing something up than reading.

The eldest has taken to the idea that he can learn anything. He checks out books on card games, science, magic, sports, Native Americans and more. The younger two have seen a glimpse of this and checked out books with holiday stories and jokes. If I hear one more knock-knock joke from the back seat…

Every few months I am sure to check out a bilingual book that we read together. They may only get a smattering of Spanish, but it makes them familiar with the language and will come in handy if they are ever serious about learning it. I know it helped me.

My mother was Mexican and I grew up hearing the language spoken and learning words here and there.  You would not guess me half Mexican if you saw me. My father is a blue eyed Pennsylvania Dutch. The two did not mix in more ways than one.

When I was born, my hair genes battled for dominance and split the difference. I was born with blond hair and a blue eye on my left side, brown hair and a brown eye on the right. My mother asked the doctors “What is wrong with her?”

They assured her that in time everything would turn to the dominant color. Within a year, the blue eye was light brown, but my hair will be the same color only when it is all grey. I am nearly there. The blond did turn a bit darker, more like a sandy brown. The eyelashes and brows are slower to change and still stand out, although not as much as you might think.

It made my baby pictures easy to pick out from photos of my siblings’. My parents’ constant reminders that I was perfect just the way I was, resulted in my feeling imperfect. Fortunately, no one ever made fun of it. A common expletive from classmates was “neat!”

Few people have noticed this right off. Some will look at me funny and eventually figure it out. The first thing that many people would ask is “Why did you dye your hair like that?” the second thing they would ask was “Why don’t you dye your hair?” (so it could be the same color). I found that ironic and amusing. First people want to know why you are trying to be different and then as soon as they discover you are naturally that way, without any consideration at all they instinctively want to know why you don’t take action not to be different.

I never dyed it and won’t. Perhaps I can credit this twist of fate as my first lesson that it was okay to be different, that I was made the way I am, whether it be anyone else’s picture of how I should be or not. As one particular author I enjoy reading asserted, “I am what I am.”

I am also tired, it is five in the morning and I have been reading your book and rambling for a couple of hours. Time to start my day. When I woke up, I thought I would jot a few lines and go back to bed. So much for that :)

Yours truly,

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