One night, Carrie and I were narrating Flipper for the kids during a sleepover at our condo. Flipper requires adult narration to capture the two four and one six-year old attention spans, but boy were they hooked. Hurricanes, funerals, spear fishing, guns, and dolphins! Sicily can't wait to ask Santa for a copy for her very own. After Flipper, John grabbed his bedside water glass and said, "Mommy, watch! I'm cooking water." I smiled at him in mild confusion, "Oh, great John, now go brush your teeth before bedtime." He became more insistent, "No no WATCH Mommy, I'm cooking water." I turned and gave him my full attention, and he gargled his water, modeling a behavior that I demonstrated a few months ago for him in the bathroom. While he obviously missed the name for the behavior, he got it down and created an even better one. I remember glowing in his rapt attention and awe of my performance.
One of the books I read on the trip, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne, is a magical tale of an unlikely friendship between two nine year old boys on the opposite sides of a fence. Because it is told from a nine-year-old's perspective, it takes a bit for the adult reading the novel to learn that one of the boys is the German son of a man in charge of a concentration camp, and the other is a boy in the camp. Both of these nine-year olds clearly do not have adults narrating their lives for them; one's father is too busy running the camp and the mother is drowning her misery in alcohol and a sexual liaison, the other child's lack of adult attention is to be expected, in his situation. The book is so simple, sweet, and powerful that it literally sucks your breath away. And the magical child-like thinking that goes on to explain the horrors around them made me think back to two boys when John showed me how he "cooked water." As I was reading the end, I shut the sliding glass door separating myself on the balcony from the three kids playing in the condo, and for a minute or two I sobbed harder than I have since I myself was a nine-year old. I've heard it has a fantastic movie adaptation, that I can't wait to rent.
The other book is one called Blindness, a Nobel Prize winner by Jose Saramago. This one is not for the faint at heart. The author's description of the violence and horror that ensue when a presumed contagious virus causes everyone in a large city to lose their eyesight actually gave me pause once, on the beach, during a rape scene, and I had to take a rest watching Annika and Sicily bury Ian before I could continue. But the beauty and poignancy that emerge through the horror brought tears to my eyes (Again! Twice in one trip!) so on the way home in the car when Sicily noticed a tear slip down below my sunglasses as I read the last page she asked, in alarm, "Mommy, are you OK?" And I replied, "Yes, this is just one of the most beautiful books I have ever read." I've heard this movie adaptation is horrible, and I am not surprised. One of the greatest aspects of the books is it's continual, long-winded sentences, punctuated with commas, making it difficult to figure out who is saying what so that the reader feels blind along with the majority of the central characters. I don't know how he made it work so well, and I am stunned by the translator's amazing adaptation.
On the second to last day, buoyed by the verbal encouragement I received from Annie and Dave a week earlier at my mom's pool, as well as the calm, clear, Jamacain-like waters that revealed manatees, sea slugs, hermit crabs, dolphins, fish, and many other creatures, I wore the black bikini I had purchased, with explicit and excellent advice from my sister earlier this summer, in public for the first time since before I had children. I swore I would never do that again. Never say never. I was secretly delighted to notice that I turned some heads, despite my stretch marks and cellulite.
On the last day I had about given up my attempts to run, but as I hit the halfway point a slow-moving storm front that had been threatening for hours finally broke, and with water pouring out of the sky, I happily sprinted all the way back to the condo. I had deja vu - running along the same stretch of beach last year, passing the same crazy beach house that looks like what Doctor Manhattan created on Mars, it rained at that same point on my last run, and the rain gave me so much extra energy, then, too. But this year, I was delighted to see one of the biggest rainbows I had ever seen emerge from the clouds, as I ran up to the condo. I stopped to look at it and smiled, because when I mentally compared the state of my head last year to this one, the rainbow became a metaphor. I am happier, now, to be slowing down a little. Doing some walking, not always running. I'm not looking to Christmas for more time off - I've got my birthday off next week, for the first time in many years, and three days off the next to do some work around the house, and relax. It's nice, for a change.
Sorry, you can't borrow these books, I'm sending them off to Effie, my brother Michael's wife. Today is her birthday (Happy Birthday!) and when I called her tonight to chat we discussed books and blogs, she too is a book-lover and new blogger. She talked about the book I sent her last year, The Amazing Benedict Society, and I had forgotten I sent it. I told her I was sending her two this year, and we talked about how the best books just jump out of your hands because you can't wait to share them.