Call it a long weekend or find any other excuse, but it seems that far too many people are at home today, working on a new social networking site called Pinterest.
When I first read the word Pinterest, I thought it was referring to pine trees and ignored it. Then on Twitter, a friend tweeted to the effect of: "I have no idea what this is, but I'm doing it just in case it becomes the next best thing."
Being the sheep that I am, I signed up, too. I have one pinboard on pinterest (get it? Pin + interest) that displays books I found moving or important to me, my first novel included. So far, I have three books on my pinboard. I'm not sure how much further I will go, but just in case it's the next best thing.....
Anyway, I was thinking about my important books, and I realized that my first novel isn't important to me because of the way it is now, all written and such. It's because of the writing of it, the life-changing experience of doing one huge thing, something I'd always wanted to do, and getting it done and agented and published.
The other two books on my pinboard are books that absolutely stopped me dead in my tracks and made me think about life in a way I hadn't before. These are two small, tight novels, but important to me because of the way they grabbed me and forced me to stare at them and myself. These are "Dream Boy" by Jim Grimsley and "All New People" by Anne Lamott.
There's one more book I know I'll add because I've thought about this book since the first time I read it, and that was seventeen years ago with my seven-year-old younger son. We'd been working together every single night on his reading, the process difficult and arduous and that was just me.
My son had had a hard time in school but it wasn't until second-grade that I realized that he wasn't really reading. He could sound out words and write his letters, but he wasn't even close to the stage of stringing all the sounds and symbols together to create cogent meaning.
This wasn't usual in our family. My younger sister taught herself to read at some point before kindergarten. My older son was sounding out car names as we drove, talking to me about Toyotas and Fords from his car seat. When I was in fourth grade, I was tested at a 12th grade reading level, and that's because the test tapped out at that grade.
And besides, I'd read to my son every single night of his life, probably before he could even truly understand what I was saying.
But yet, there we were on second-grade evenings, crying. And that was just me.
I can't tell you how it happened or how I picked up Calvin and Hobbes. Maybe I remembered a neighbor talking about the cartoon books. Maybe my older son already had the copy. I'm not sure. All I know is that my younger son and I sat down and started reading it. Soon he was reading the books during snack times and after dinner. Soon, he was reading. Soon I stopped worrying, sort of. Something else surely slipped in for me to worry about, but I knew the anxiety of reading was over when one afternoon, his friend called for the homework, and my son read out the instructions to him from a handout.
I found my then husband at the dining room table crying.
"He can do it," my husband said.
Indeed. And trust you me, I bought every last Calvin and Hobbes book I could find, waiting for the next and the next. I may have even cried when Watterson retired from Calvin and Hobbes, letting those two characters go off into mischief we will never see.
I have always owed Bill Watterson something bigger than pinning him on my pinboard. He deserves much more tha that. But how to repay authors who change our lives, who make us stop and see and think and appreciate?
I know that on a good day, I'm only an above-average writer. I do a lot of things really well and a number of them not-so-much. I'm not like Bill Watterson, who on his worst day could grab my son by his t-shirt and pull him into a story he just couldn't avoid, a story he had to read.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org