We are blessed with special moments that become bright umbrellas on rainy days. Such was the moment when I caught the above photo of my granddaughter Mattie several months ago reading in the Japanese maple tree.
Not only was she reading, an activity I delight in, Mattie was reading my old tattered copy of “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. When Mattie and I were scanning the titles of my childhood books, she pulled out “Little Women.” She had become familiar with Alcott’s name as we played Author cards and now she eagerly hugged the book to herself. “I’m going to read this while I’m here,” she said. Realizing she really wanted to read it, I told her the book was hers to take home and keep. I don’t think I’ve ever given a gift that was more enthusiastically received.
That book is worn and scuffed. In the front is an inscription from my mother who gave it to me for Christmas in 1953 when I was eleven as Mattie was at the time of this picture. The book got me into trouble more than once because I was such a bookworm that I neglected my duties while absorbed in the story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March.
Mattie and I had already shared some humorous moments over Louisa May Alcott. When she and her older brothers were visiting from Birmingham one of our favorite games was Authors, a “Go Fish” kind of game for which the object is to collect four cards of works by each of eleven authors. The first summer we played it Mattie was very young and couldn’t quite keep up with the concentration and strategy of the game so she and I were partners. Every time we came into possession of a Louisa May Alcott card Mattie would burst out laughing. I’m not sure whether it was because Alcott was the only woman in the pack that included Scott, Dickens, Cooper, Poe with all their solemn faces, or that she just liked Alcott’s looks. As she became a very shrewd Authors card player, Mattie tried to learn to keep a poker face when she landed an Alcott card but if I really watched her I could catch that look of delight and the bare twinkle of a smile on her lips.
Not long before the visit mentioned above, Mattie’s dad had sent me a picture of Mattie sitting in a nice generous-limbed cherry tree at her house reading a book I had written, “Her Name Was Rebekah.” Mattie’s description of that occasion was something like this: “I knew how you liked to climb trees, Nana, so I thought that was a good place to read your book.”
Now here was Mattie in one of our trees, one enjoyed also by her cousins Charli and Kaison, ready for a session of reading between gymnastic exhibitions on the lawn.
After she went home Mattie texted me several times to report on her progress reading “Little Women.” She had read where Amy got into trouble taking limes to school and where Jo, while paying attention to the wrong things, burned a whole hank of hair off Meg with a curling iron. She was so gleeful one day when she found a pressed leaf in between the pages. I assured her that, yes, I was sure I had put it there some time when I was perched in a tree reading or maybe sitting on the ferny bank of a brook.
I’m so glad I could capture that moment of Mattie in the tree to keep for days to come. Children grow up very fast. Grandchildren grow up even faster! The gifts they give us as they grow–gifts of joy, laughter, pure innocence, and compassion and uninhibited pleasure–are immeasurable. Yes, umbrellas for rainy days!
“But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.” Psalms 103:17