Tuesday, February 10, 2015

the story on paper


We are all quite attached to this reading record of Elliott's  All three kids have filled out a similar black and white student notebook with two years of independent home reading for the same two years of school.  For all three children, it is a record of each of their surges in reading, these books tell the story of their growing love of reading that has emerged for each of them during these two years.  And especially, a record of just what books they chose and read and loved, books that guided them into their reading life.  We have saved Nicholas and Julia's books, and every once in a while I find them looking through them, smiling at their handwriting as it developed back then, the move from printing to cursive, the books they read, the questions back and forth and visible relationship they had with each of their teachers.

Elliott has approached his reading record a bit differently than Julia and Nicholas.  He fills out his list each night, and then at the end of the week he has made a little doodle of what he is reading.  This doodling has become something that we all enjoy watching and we have been inspired to join in.  This reading record of Elliott's is treasured now, and will be treasured always.  It is uniquely Elliott.

Which is why we all froze and stared silently in horror, for a few long moments when it was standing upside down, on its top edge, in the center of a sizzling splattering hot and greasy frying pan of bacon.

I wish I could fully explain how it happened.  But happen it did.  There were a few bad moments there in the Werner household.  Elliott and Jonathan had just finished Elliott's reading for school and Elliott had filled out his reading record.  He then dutifully brought it into the kitchen and tossed it onto his back pack so that he would remember to take it to school with him the next morning.  

Now, due to kitchen painting issues, his backpack happened to be tossed upon the counter near the stove.  And so, when tossed, the record sailed through the air and landed ever so elegantly atop his backpack.  

And then it began to slide.  And it slid right into that pan of bacon, and gave to its vertical rest. Becoming a cooked book.

I picked the notebook up and handed it to Jonathan, bacon tongs still in my other hand.  Get a towel, I said.

Elliott began emitting a low moan.  Jonathan grabbed a towel and began wiping the edge of the book, telling Elliott it was going to be okay.  And I, ever the helpful one, and the realist in the bunch, said, it's grease.  You need to stop it from spreading.

There were a few tense moments, in which Jonathan watched the grease begin to move from the to edge of each page, spreading toward Elliott's writing and pictures.  He tried his best to get Elliott's, who was crying now, permission to rip apart the book and try to save his entries from the quickly oozing grease.  Once Elliott had said something coherent, Jonathan went to work.

My librarian book tending husband grabbed our sharpest scissors, took a deep breath, and ripped the binding of the notebook.  I stood over the bacon watching silently.  And Elliott ran into the other room and stuck his head under a couch pillow.  Jonathan began carefully scissoring the tops of each page Elliott had filled out, cutting carefully around the writing and pictures, removing each smear and splatter and spreading ooze of grease from each page.

A quick run out the Staples before it closed, and some work after Elliott had gone to bed and it was repaired.  With a bit of duct tape.





Somewhere in all of this chaos, a quick call was made to Elliott's teacher, to explain the events, as best we could, and give her a little heads up so she would be prepared for whatever condition boy and book arrived at school the next morning.



And of course, this teacher, who doodle swaps each week with Elliott in his reading record, reacted in equal horror, then laughed with us, assured Elliott that she was okay with the book repairs being done.  And then she said the most perfect thing of the evening:

Tell Elliott this for me.  I can't wait to see the doodle he is going to make for me about this.

The next morning, before school, Elliott got right to work.  Everything seems better in the morning light and while wearing a fancy top hat.


Moods cheerier, the kids began their retellings of the evening's events.  With some dramatic reenactments.  


Julia and Nicholas were offering reassurances and trying to add a bit of levity to the situation.  As Elliott finished his first row of panels, Julia and Nicholas leaning in and watching it unfold on paper, Nicholas offered what he thought should come next in the story.



Draw yourself with your head down in a hole of pillows.  And say "Meanwhile, Elliott was sobbing in a hole."  All good stories have a meanwhile.

And everybody laughed.  Because now, it was indeed funny.  And we all enjoy the telling of a good story.

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