Tell the Wolves I’m Home

I just finished reading Tell the Wolves I’m Home. It’s our book club selection right now.

This book broke me.

I cried all the way through the last 50 pages. Trying my best to not have heaving sobs given a sleeping (sick) child across the hallway.

I believe we each have our Causes. The organization you always send money, spend your time, will talk about with a stranger. HIV/AIDS awareness is one of mine that started back in high school. I think that is part of what hit me so hard in this book. It’s set in the winter/early Spring of 1987 and the main character is 14. (I was a sophomore in 1987, and would have been 16).

I can’t tell you why it hits me so hard. It just does.

Shortly after I moved out here, I joined the Chicken Soup Brigade. I volunteered in the warehouse to inventory food and get ready for deliveries. I also delivered meals to people with HIV/AIDS in the Seattle area. I loved that work. It was Friday afternoons and I would race out of the office at 3:30 every week to get on my way. There was one client in particular that I loved visiting. I would always go to his house last even though it wasn’t the most convenient delivery route. We would always have witty banter at the door, as I brought the bags into the kitchen. We would both say good-bye laughing, sometimes crying from laughter. (Usually people would just take the bags, say thanks, and go back in their homes) As he got sicker and wasn’t able to meet me at the door any longer, his partner would answer and I could only yell through the apartment to say Hi and go on my way. And then there was finally the week he wasn’t on my route any longer. I could only guess he passed and they weren’t accepting support any longer. It was a difficult day. I stopped doing the home deliveries shortly after that.

Back to this book – it is described as a coming of age story for the main character June, after losing her uncle, (as the book jacket describes it), “a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.”

It’s the compassion and friendship that broke me. Thinking back to how people reacted in the 80’s (and as the author illustrates in the story) how lonely it must have been for some, that didn’t have anybody. That even just one person can make a difference.

I think many of us lose sight of that a lot in our busy lives filled with work and internets, Facebook and family schedules….I sure fucking do!

This passage from the book is my absolute favorite, I even (gasp) dog-eared the page so I would have it marked forever:

Don’t you know? That’s the secret. If you always make sure you’re exactly the person you hoped to be, if you always make sure you know only the very best people, then you won’t care if you die tomorrow.

That doesn’t make any sense. If you were so happy, then you’d want to stay alive, wouldn’t you? You’d want to be alive forever, so you could keep being happy…

No, no. It’s the most unhappy people that who want to stay alive, because they think they haven’t done everything they want to do. They think they haven’t had enough time. They feel like they’ve been short changed.

Great reminder that it’s about creating the life I want surrounded by the people I choose and having a fabulous time in the process. Feeling pretty good about where I’m at with that too…

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The Hunger Games (again)

I just finished rereading the Hunger Games. I’m sure you have seen all the buzz and crazy fans as the movie came out a few weeks ago. I read it the the first time two years ago (I had to look up when Mockingjay was published to know it was that long ago). I hosted book club most recently, so I got to pick the next book. I chose the whole trilogy.

It was never a question that I would reread the books. I also wanted to reread The Hunger Games before I saw the movie. I was nearly finished the first book when we saw the film. I personally think they did a really good job. It’s not easy to turn a book into a movie, so many details, what do you leave out, etc. etc.

I slammed through Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I couldn’t put the book down, well, I could….but read them both rather fast given how long it typically takes me to finish a book.

Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t read the books and intend to, I’m about to talk about the story so be warned…

This time around, I was haunted by how damaged Katniss and her fellow tributes were after the games. The nightmares, the horror of having to go back for the Quarter Quell, what Haymitch lost and what Finnick had to endure. That Joanna lost everything and everyone she loved, and therefore had nothing to lose herself. It’s one of those situations that people just don’t know and could never even imagine to know if they haven’t lived through it.

Like childbirth.

Or depression.

I wept reading the last chapter when Katniss finally started to feel the emotion and heaviness of losing Prim. The one person she was trying to protect the most, so quickly slipped through her fingers. That it somehow allowed herself to fully open up to Peeta and even get to a place of having her own children 15 years down the line. Fifteen seems like a blip. To a seventeen year old girl that lost two members of her family, and countless allies and confidants, 15 years must have seemed like an eternity. If she even made it that long.

I kept thinking, if I had to go through something like that, like the Hunger Games – and lived to tell about it – what would my damage be? Would I be able to carry on? And in reality, did Katniss really carry on before the end? That image of living as a hollow shell. Going through the emotions because that is what one is “supposed” to do. How easy it is to wander the halls and find some closet to hide from the world.

Still – enjoyable. Yet, more painful and real for Katniss, Peeta and every other “victor” around them. Not really a victor at all. No one won in the Hunger Games.

I’ve heard many people around me that haven’t read the books talk about how disturbing it is and why would anyone want to read a book about kids killing kids. That is very short-sighted. The killing is such a small part of the whole story. The real thing that should disturb them is how adults can manipulate a child’s world. While other adults stand by and do nothing about it.

It’s so important to stand up for the kids, when they cannot – or should not – stand up for themselves.

April Quote

“the time has come” the walrus said,

“to talk of many things:

of shoes – and ships –

and sealing way –

of cabbages – and kings –

and why the sea is boiling hot

and whether pigs have wings”

– lewis carroll

Did you see Alice in Wonderland?  I am a HUGE Tim Burton fan.  I remember sitting in the Moorestown Mall Cinema back in high school waiting for Edward Scissorhands to start.  My friend leaned across to me and said something along the lines of – Tim Burton is a GENIUS!  That was before I really knew who Tim Burton was.  Now – I agree he is a creative genius.     Huh.     Perhaps I work with too many technical engineers.

A asked to see the movie in the theater – instead we let her watch a version from the 70s via streaming Netflix.  Wow.  Think Mr. Burton’s was trippy?  Try watching a movie from the 70s with those kinds of special effects and that kind of acting.  If today’s Alice is a journey into an altered imagination when sober – the one from the 70s would require a glass of wine (or 5) to get through it.

I digress.

Lately I have been enjoying young adult literature – for more reasons than it’s a quick read for a busy mom.  It’s exciting to think that very soon A will read the books I read as a kid – or some I haven’t.  (note – the some I haven’t is the ONLY reason I’ll read the Twilight series, if she asks me to)  I’ve started to reread Madeleine L’Engle, John D. Fitzgerald and Judy Blume. It’s kinda exciting to revisit books I read as a kid and haven’t picked up since then.  Those that had such an influence on me. 

We started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to her a few weeks ago.  She is in love with this book.  She tells us she can’t wait to begin reading all the others as soon as possible.  Uh, in due time my child…  Last week on a family vacation to Florida, she spent nearly every ride in the backseat with Grandma conducting Witch Class.  They came up with some pretty good spells.  My favorite being the Freezing Spell.  You need to do that magic thing and say “Froze!!!”  If the witch ever decides to relief that poor frozen person, the witch needs to shout “UF!”  The adults cracked up every time, I think Grandma was afraid of rearranging those letters, as were the parents.

And the fun continues.

free to be you and me

OK kids of the 70’s, who was raised with this book in regular rotation?  I remember reading this with my mom, my dad, other family members…listening to the record for Boy Meets Girl.  I still have my original copy, and it’s so loved!  I’m almost afraid to open it up so it doesn’t disintegrate.

So I was overjoyed when I saw a 35th Anniversary edition.  I bought it for me.  Or so I thought.  I read it cover to cover.  The art has been updated, modernized.  Which probably makes sense for the 5-yr-old in the other room.  Or maybe not…  Anyway.  It sat on my floor in the “book pile” for about 3 weeks before A noticed it.  I read her Boy Meets Girl and Ladies First!  She loved them.  It’s in regular rotation now.  The updated version has a CD, but only 4 of the songs/stories.  So I dug out the 70’s version on CD I got many years ago in anticipation of children.  I haven’t given it to A yet.  I listened to it in the car today on my (frustrating) drive to work.  Such…great…memories…

Sesame Street still a child favorite…the Electric Company back on TV…Free to Be You and Me…it’s great to see my childhood favorites back in rotation for all those great lessons like tolerance, love, diversity.  I just hope A continues to like them, and has the same appreciation 30 years from now.