Between my brother and I, we likely read every book held in our teeny tiny town library. I remember the layout of that building perfectly, and what it smelled like when you entered it. My mother would sometimes drop us there for a few minutes while she drove down the block to the post office. I remember the day that we dropped my brother there, older and judged acceptable to leave alone at the library for a few minutes, and I stayed in the car with my mother. We headed to the post office but never actually mailed her letters that day. Instead we sat, stunned, in the parking lot while we listened to the breaking news report on the radio about the assassination attempt on President Reagan. I remember my mother clicking off the radio, once she realized what we were listening to. We drove back down the street and my mother nervously ran in to find my brother, and get us all back together again, a response to difficult news that I recognize now in myself as a mother. That library, now no longer the town's library, those books now held in places I have never been inside, holds many such memories and many such pivotal moments of my childhood.
When I was old enough to be left there as well, my brother and I would walk in together, but we typically went our separate ways once inside. We were often alone in the library, and it was so small that we could call to each other, even when in different rooms. My brother was a science fiction/fantasy nut and therefore he turned right once past the circulation desk, which was sometimes self serve if the one librarian was busy, or outside smoking, or just generally not there. His room was a large open adult books room and it held what is now considered young adult literature as well, though I don't think it was called this back then.
I turned left after the circulation desk and walked down the dark hall to the children's room. There I would search and search for a book I had not yet read, clicking the light on when I entered, a small bedroom sized room filled with books, the back window looking out at a forest which is now a gravel pit. Eventually over the years, I came to look for books in the larger room where my brother searched, trying my best to like his likes, but never really getting into his genre. I was a realistic fiction reader and struggled to find the right books for myself after I aged out of the children's room.
When I was in 4th grade, the same year that moments such as the one that day at the post office began to trickle into my awareness about difficult and scary aspects of the world, of people's capacity to do bad things, of the existence of evil, the complications of mental illness, a teacher put a book in my hands that would rock my world. It was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I devoured that book and the two next books in the series, connecting with the story and characters, making good use of the story's metaphor for evil, the black thing, and who I was at that moment when I read it, and what I was beginning to grapple with and understand on so many different levels. I then discovered L'Engle's books she had written about the characters as they got older, and therefore the content was, as my mother worried, of more mature content. They were tame. Very tame. But I was reading ahead of my personal maturity. Those books were held in the larger room, and I began heading right instead of left, walking away from the safety of the children's room and toward the larger, more open space of the adult books, pulled by the idea of new stories, richer stories, and characters I grew to love. Stories that gave words to my growing awareness of the larger world around me.
At any rate, A Wrinkle in Time makes me think of this library, no longer there, that teacher who placed it in my hands, of finding a book that blended both my own and my brother's interest so we could both read it and play at its story and have deep thoughts about time travel and evil and mind control. But mostly, I remember the idea of tessering, of time travel described as creating a fold in the time/space continuum, allowing for movement between two points of time that skip over the wrinkle in between. As explained by kindly old and magical women to a young struggling girl finding her voice and her strength. And I remember sitting in the back seat of our car with my brother, a piece of paper between us, creating the wrinkle in the paper as we drew two points of time close together, to move from one moment to another.
It's such a good story to me. And I have been thinking about how this story has moved on to each of my children. Julia was handed the book by her teacher, also in 4th grade, in the first week of school during a quiet moment when Julia was trying to find her footing in her new class and adjusting to the new school year. She read some of it, and then borrowed it as an audiobook from our library, and moved without skipping a beat from the first book to Wind in the Door to Swiftly Tilting Planet before I knew she had even finished the first book. If you talk to her about the books, its all about Meg, the main character, and how she feels about her.
Nicholas read (well, listened as an audiobook) to Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me, a fabulous book inspired by, based on, connected to, its main character's love of A Wrinkle in Time. He loved the story's end, the aspects of mystery, relationships, and unfolding characters in that book. In efforts to interest him in then reading A Wrinkle in Time, I purchased him Hope Larson's graphic novel version of the book when it was published a few years ago. He read that, but I never heard much from him about it, more of a Percy Jackson-type fan is he. But there it sat on his book shelf, next to his graphic novels about Percy Jackson and Lunch Lady and all things graphically good.
And then came Elliott. Who was looking for a new book to read for his independent reading assignments at home, having just finished Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson. This boy is a reader, and he wants books with a good story, a bit of humor, preferably some animals, and as much visual content as possible, please. He is as much a lover of and as influenced by the rise of the graphic novel during their childhoods as Nicholas is, but he is even more of a visual reader. Nicholas used the graphic novel to launch into reading more and more text heavy books. Elliott would like it if those authors out there writing the good story using visual information as well as text would get on it and write more. And do so a little bit faster, please.
He found A Wrinkle in Time on Nicholas' shelf. And jumped in.
Battie has kindly stepped in and brought a bit more animal to the story to keep Elliott perfectly satisfied. And though she likes to pretend to be indifferent, I can tell she likes the story too.
Elliott has carried that book with him to many a sibling appointment and happily passed the time.
And I snapped a quick shot of his weekly doodle in his reading log. When I saw it, I knew that this story had worked its way into Elliott's library of stories as well, just as it has for each of his siblings, and for me as well. And now this story includes for me, in addition to everything it meant to me before, the way each of our children have connected to it, in their own individual ways, the story in a form most accessible to each of them, across people and years. Bringing two points together that would otherwise be separate. Helping a growing mind make connections and grapple and have bigger thoughts as well as contain and simplify what might otherwise feel too big. Another act of tessering.