Literary Reflections is pleased to present our featured writing prompt response from August. We asked “What literary inheritances have you received from your family and/or loved ones? What might you pass on to the next generation?”
Jenny Rich wrote:
From my father, I learned that sometimes the very act of reading to others is the best way to show them how very much they are loved.
I was 21 years old, just home from spring break my senior year of college. It had been an intense week full of drinking, eating and making a fair number of mistakes. It was during that week away with my then-closest friends that depression hit me like a tidal wave. I wanted nothing more than to be left alone, to not have to face the changes that were coming with graduation. I wanted to freeze time and stay a child, to rush ahead and grow up. In short, I wanted everything and nothing.
The flight home was a perfect symbol for the week — we were heading down the runway, picking up speed when one of the plane’s engines blew. The bang, the sudden standstill, the abject fear. When I finally did get back to Philadelphia, my dad was waiting at the gate to take me home. I don’t remember speaking at all on that ride to my parents’ house but do remember getting home and going to bed. I got into my bed and, quite simply, had no plans of getting up. I didn’t want to go back to school, didn’t want to shower, to eat, to think.
And then my dad came in with a Janet Evanovich book in hand. He sat down on the side of my bed without pretext and he read to me. That’s all he did. I don’t know how long he read, hours, days perhaps, but he just kept reading. I remember the dim light in my bedroom, the feeling of being completely shut down, the sound of my dad’s voice. I don’t remember the book or the plot. I remember that he caught me and pulled me out from wherever I was.
Of course, I did get up and go back to school. I graduated, became a teacher, and later a wife and a mother. When I found out I was pregnant I began to read aloud every night. I brought an anthology of children’s classics with me on vacation when I was nine weeks pregnant so I wasn’t forced to miss a night of reading. I did this because, in my mind, reading represents love. Just as my dad pulled me along so many years ago, I hoped without realizing it that my reading would pull this baby along, would help him grow and thrive inside of me. I still read to my son every day and every night, never having missed a day. I do this for the unspoken message that I hope to instill in him: I love you, I love you, I love you.
Jenny Rich is the editor of the children’s literacy website Ethans Bookshelf and can be reached at editor@ethansbookshelf(dot)com. She also writes the blog Read. Imagine. Talk.