Someone Will Be with You Shortly
I was lucky: my family listened to me and read to me.
I waited in the front yard at dusk for the newspaper man to kick up dust on graveled Main as he threw the Kansas City Star into the yard. I’d rip off the string and run inside as fast as I could to have my favorite comic strip read to me, usually by my mother, but sometimes by my father or grandparents. I was impressed that they all could read. I’d sit on a lap and learn a few more new words as I was cracking the reading code.
For Christmas I got Alice in Wonderland (with the Tenniel illustrations), read it over and over, memorized long passages, and was mesmerized by the intoxicating smell of its pages. (That’s another book I’m looking for in the boxes).
From the time I could read a sentence, I read everything I could get my paws on: books, cereal boxes, and “do not remove” tags on pillows. I was certain life could hold no higher pleasure than to be carried away by words.
My father held my hand as we walked up the marble steps to the Carnegie Public Library (“Free to All”) in the next town to get my first library card. He was fond of arranging happy surprises, so I’d never seen the library and didn’t know what a library card was. I was dazzled by the curving staircases and the big hole in the ceiling that led to the second of three stories. A palace filled with books, and I could check out as many as I could carry. Both of us with arms filled.
In my sixteenth summer, my mother said to me, “Close your eyes and hold out your hand. From what I’ve heard you say, I think you might like this.” Gone with the Wind caught me by surprise, and I read steadily, cover to cover without putting the book down. At mealtimes, my mother put sandwiches in my hand. No one told me to turn out the light to sleep now, to do my chores, to shower, to come to the dinner table, or to practice the piano.
Was it two or three days that I read without stopping? I Don’t remember, but I was allowed to sleep all day after I finished the book, tired, but happy and satisfied, having lived a whole different life story than my own.
Now in my sixty-sixth summer, I pick up Lisa Kogan’s Someone Will Be with You Shortly, and I don’t want to put it down, either. I had so many plans for this day, but they’re all shoved aside now as I’m caught up in the story of a single mother and writer living in Manhattan.
Laugh-out-loud funny. Love and loss and wisdom and flippancy and joy and stress and longing. When I finished the chapter about the regret of not having listened to her grandmother and learning to listen to her daughter, I was so moved that I had to put the book down to write this post.
I was relieved to know that I’d only finished 43% of the Kindle version and there was a good chunk of pages yet to come.
Thank you, Lisa Kogan for reminding me that the first duty of love is to listen.