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April 29, 2012

T. Greenwood on Reading with her Children

Posted by Dana

T. Greenwood is the author of seven novels --- most recently, GRACED, published this past March. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and, most recently, the Maryland State Arts Council. She teaches creative writing at for San Diego Writer's, Ink. She and her husband, Patrick, live in San Diego, CA with their two daughters. She is also an aspiring photographer. Here, she talks about the joys of being a mother. 

After my first daughter, Mikaela, was born, my mother arrived at our small apartment at the beach with a box full of books: the battered copy of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, the beautifully damaged, GOLDEN BOOK OF ELVES AND FAIRIES, held precariously together by yellowed Scotch tape. FERDINAND, A MOUSE TO BE FREE, WHY MISQUITOES BUZZ IN PEOPLE'S EARS, and the beloved CARELESS CLUNKS. These were the books she read to me before I was able to read myself, and the books inside which I curled up for most of my childhood. She had to have saved a hundred of the books I loved as a little girl, as if waiting for the moment that she could pass them along to me. And when my second daughter, Esmee, was born, she started buying new books. Adding to the already voluminous collection she’d started for them.

I have inherited many, many things from my mother. We are both homebodies. We both thrill, undaunted, at the prospect of any sort of do-it-yourself project. We both entertain the guilty pleasure of an afternoon nap. We even look alike (more so now that I am grown). And we both are completely unable to get rid of our books.

My daughters are eight and ten now. They both have e-readers, and they prefer The Hunger Games and Harry Potter to the delicious collection of picture books that still take up four shelves in my living room bookcases. But try as I might, I cannot part with them. Of course, I have tossed some of the yard sale finds, and the board books that have lost their covers (though none of them that bear the tiny teeth marks of the girls’ baby teeth). I have discarded some Disney Princess paperbacks, some books whose mechanical boxes that used to make potty flushing noises or Nemo’s voice now only sound like dying seals. I have even donated a few duplicate copies of beloved books to book drives.

But there are hundreds of books that will not leave my bookshelves: the Elmo story book we read to my eldest every single night until she was three, the one she could recite, like a Sesame Street prayer. The replacement ELVES AND FAIRIES whose pages I duplicated in a mural on the wall of a bedroom in our old house. The anthology of children’s stories my grandfather gave to Mikaela when she was born. She doesn’t remember him now, but she knows him through these stories. And of course, those artifacts of my childhood my mother passed on to me.

My husband, like my father, knows better than to fuss about the unruly shelves stuffed with outgrown children’s books in our home. He turns a blind eye to the piles of chapter books that litter each of my daughters’ floors. He smartly ignores the way I’ve managed to put a bookshelf in every room except the kitchen. Perhaps he knows (and takes comfort in the fact) that one day, many years from now, they’ll finally be passed along, like my blue eyes and his wide smile, to our own grandchildren.