Saturday, February 15, 2014


Today is my maternal grandmother's eighty-fifth birthday, so the thing to say is "Happy Birthday, Grandma!"  (I hope the gift makes it to you in good order.)

I have been lucky to know both of my grandmothers, as I know not all people are.  The grandmother whose birthday it is I know fairly well; she has lived with my parents across much of my life (she lives with them now, in fact) and did much to raise my brother and me.  I do not always agree with her (I do not always agree with anybody), and she has her...issues...but I love her dearly, and I have always been able to depend on her love and support (even if she sometimes rails against "highfalutin' professors" such as I more or less am).

That I am a reader is obvious.  That my grandmother encouraged me in my reading, I have discussed in one way, but that was not the only way.  One of the furthest-back memories I can call up, in fact, is of her taking me to a local book exchange when I was five or six.  I remember walking the stacks and marveling at the sheer number of books on the shelves; I still fantasize about owning such a store, in fact.  (Imagine that, an English professor dreaming of owning a bookstore--such a quiet, staid, and ultimately depressing fantasy, given that "books are dying."  Then again, so is the professoriate...)  The early visit, though, began to introduce me to communities of reading, although I did not realize it until many years later.  (I was in kindergarten.  Give me a break.)

Even now, my grandmother and my wife exchange books (not often, perhaps); their tastes in pleasure reading are somewhat similar (and give me reason to laugh from time to time).  They talk about their shared reading, and my grandmother and I talk about some of the other reading she does and has done (although our tastes in pleasure reading differ substantially, as do the ways in which we read--but that is to be expected).  She remains a lynchpin of the reading life of my family--and I pray that she will do so for many years to come; it would be good for my child to be so generationally steeped in the love of the printed word.

I tell many stories about my grandmother, of course.  Having known her for over thirty years now gives me access to a great many of them.  Some of them are even funny.  Many of them are stories of her importance to me.  (I am aware of the egotism therein.)  How many more there will be is unclear to me, but for those I have and those I hope to have, I am grateful, as I am for having had in my life the woman who gave rise to them.  I love you, Grandma, and I hope that you have a remarkably happy birthday this year, next, and for more that I cannot yet see.

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