Reading began very early in our family, and the fact that we were less than wealthy or that our community didn’t have a public library didn’t prevent our parents from finding books for us to read. Books out of the laundry detergent were a bonus, but we also got books at garage sales, handed down by older cousins, and many from our grandma who had saved many of my dad’s childhood books for us to borrow. I used to love reading Blueberries for Sal, Huckleberry Finn, and Black Beauty.
When I was old enough to check out books from our school library I discovered more stories at my fingertips, but they seemed very limited compared to the books at grandma’s house. When grandma started to let me choose one book per month from her books-by-mail library program, I could hardly believe my luck. One of my first selections was The Island of the Blue Dolphins. I remember telling my grandma all about it and how she hung on every word. She did the same with The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton when I told her it had made me cry. She may not have been the intellectual type, but my grandmother was a reader and loved to talk about stories. She didn’t know what a book club was back then, but somehow she managed to start one with me.
Later, when I had permission to read Gone With the Wind (my first grown-up book) my grandma and I had a great time talking about it. Grandma thought Scarlett O-Hara was huffy and pointed out to me that she wasn’t very good at being a lady. The things Scarlett did made my grandma laugh, then cluck her tongue and shake her head. But she felt sorry for her too. In the end, we both couldn’t help liking Scarlett.
When my grandma and I first read Francine Rivers’ The Mark of the Lion Series, we were both captivated. We talked and talked about those books and in doing so, we talked about other things and Grandma managed to work in more than a few lessons about life and faith. I only wish she’d had the opportunity to read Redeeming Love, also by Francine Rivers, which I didn’t discover until about five years after my grandma died.
The last book we ever read and talked about together was Scarlett. Grandma knew how much I loved Gone With the Wind and when she heard about Scarlett, she got it for me, which was no small feat considering she was actually quite poor. My name is still written in her wavering hand writing in the front of the book. We loved talking about Scarlett and even though I lived far away, we managed to pass it between each other, then on to my sister-in-law, and eventually back to me.
I guess it’s no wonder that I ended up writing a book about a grandmother and a granddaughter who are very close. The memories that bind the hearts of Kitty and Lucy together are different than those I have with my own grandmother, but the meaning of the bond is the same. Reading bound our hearts together, but it gave my grandmother the opportunity to teach me all about life, without my even knowing it was happening. I wish she could read Ruby Among Us. I wonder if she would like it. . . .