The summer before 4th grade, my family moved to a new house. There were a lot of amazing things about this place- the trees perfect for climbing, the reflective window that was featured in an architectural magazine, the graveyard boarding our property – but the absolute best were our neighbors, Mrs. and Mr. A.
To my 9 year old brain, they were elderly – but I’m sure they weren’t that old when we moved in. They had grown children with families of their own and an inground pool. Now, if I were over a certain age and I had a family consisting of a 9 year old, a 7 year old and 2 year old moving in next to me, I wouldn’t exactly be thrilled. But Mr. and Mrs. A welcomed us with open arms, introduced us to their kids and their families (still family friends to this day!) and gave us free reign over their pool, letting us host a slew of birthday parties there. I can remember Mr. A only swimming in the pool exactly once- but he maintained it like it was his job, keeping it clean for anyone who wanted to be there.
Mrs. A dealt with health issues over the years and, as I grew older, she spent more time at home. She loved her family, Elvis Presley, colorful jewelry and books (and not necessarily in that order). She’d spend a lot of her summer days on her covered back deck, reading a book by the pool and chatting with with whomever was swimming.
I’ve always been a reader – that child who took a book everywhere. Mrs. A saw that love and nurtured it by slipping me paperback after paperback over the years. If she wasn’t home, I’d find books on her love seat on the porch with a note with my name taped to the cover. I gobbled up every book she sent me and relished being able to talk books with someone who loved them as much as I did.
As I grew older, the books became a bit more….adult. I owe my love of all romance novels to Mrs. A and she’ll always have my undying love for introducing me to the Outlander series. I vividly remember our VC Andrews phase – when the books would come with a note inside that stated DO NOT SHOW YOUR PARENTS! underlined twice. I’d have to smuggle them into my room, stash them under my bed and read them late at night. Those books were crazy and my parents would have freaked out if they knew what I was reading- but that was part of the fun.
Scorch goes to a nature camp that has different themes each week. His all time favorite week is Hunger Game week.
<Yes, I know. Let’s not think too hard about who in their right mind models a camp off of those books and what kind of crappy parent sends their kid there. *cough*>
We went to the library this week and Scorch was hell bent on reading the Hunger Games, claiming he was the only one in the whole camp who hasn’t. I hemmed and hawed and talked to the librarian about this. Just because my kid can read at a grade level 2+ years above his, doesn’t mean he should, you know?? The violence, the love triangle, the back stabbing and brutality just didn’t sit right with me – I wasn’t convinced that Scorch was mature enough to handle this series.
And then I remembered Mrs. A and how important she made me feel when she trusted me with books that were way above my maturity level. Reading those books didn’t seem to warp me too much….right?
After much research that night, I finally decided to allow Scorch to read Hunger Games. We agreed that I’d read it along side him and that he could only read the first book in the series, a compromise that made us both happy. So far, it’s been a joy sharing this book with my boy and I’m thrilled to see him dive into a book with such enthusiasm.
Here’s to you, Mrs. A for sneaking me horrible books that I had no business reading- ensuring I’d love reading forever – and for giving me the guts to share that love with my kiddos.