Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Reminiscent Day

A reading déjà vu!  I went to a very tiny grammar school (thirteen in my eighth grade class.) There was, to compliment the tininess of the school, a tiny library, one shelf long, at the back of the classroom.  These were books we were encouraged to read during “quiet study time.” They were often read surreptitiously during math or catechism times as well.  Most of the books I read in the eighth grade, have faded into the mists of forgetfulness, but one from the little library which I remember reading was “The House of Seven Gables.”  It was delightfully creepy, slightly shocking, and I altogether loved it.  Since that one was so good, I also read its companion, “The Scarlet Letter.” This one I did not love so much.  You may find it difficult to believe, but even though in the eighth grade, I had only a vague concept of the true story of the birds and the bees.  Hence, “The Scarlet Letter” was both mysterious and shocking to me, and in great part incomprehensible.  Still, after all these years, it has stood out in my mind in ways that most of my other reading did not.  I have reread “The House of Seven Gables” several times, but never was really tempted to pick up “The Scarlet Letter” again.  At least not until recently,  after Rachael and I went to see Lillian Gish in the silent film, which was glorious.  It seemed like quite a different story than the one I had read so many years ago.  Well, I thought, that’s how movies often are - not really true to the original novel.  I loved the movie so much that I decided  I had better reread the book.  Well, here is a third version.  This is even less the book I read years ago.  Odd how a book can completely change its character when read later in life. 

Anyway, as I started reading it, I was transported back Sister Hilda Marie, the termagant who taught the eighth grade, her little library, and reading in the classroom while supposed to be doing other things.  Later that evening, at work during my break time,  I finished my current read-on-the-computer-during-workbreaks book, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” the fourth and final Sherlock Holmes novel, and, casting about for my next workbreaks book, decided to reread the short stories from the start.  I opened up “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” and the first story was “The Red Headed League.”  Wow!  As I began to read, I was routed on another trip back to St. Thomas School.  This book was also in the library, and was my first introduction to Sherlock.  I remember being astonished by Sherlock, the whole idea of a Red Headed League, and delighting in the adventures with Holmes and Watson yet to come. Two trips down the same literary memory lane in one day.  I was thrilled and a not little creepified!


Marta said...

You may find it hard to believe but I only had a vague concept of the birds & the bees on my honeymoon!

I. F. said...

The Scarlet Letter is so shocking that I am shocked that the Sisters would include it on the shelf for 8th graders.

joannamauselina said...

I.F., that was my very thought. I had two speculations about it. A. They were German nuns, and probably were more familiar with Schiller than Hawthorne, or B. They got it as part of a set, and thought no eighth grader would bother to read it.

Laura said...

I also as a Catholic school girl of the 50's was pretty clueless to the birds & bees. But Marta wins for innocence on that score! :)

Sadly my grade school library book selection was not memorable - at least I don't remember them. Loved your telling of this story and the great illustrations.