She said, "Glory, you take things too much to heart." That was what they always said about her. Hope was serene. Luke was generous. Teddy was brilliant. Jack was Jack. Grace was musical, and Glory took everything to heart. She wished they had told her how to do otherwise, what else she should have done.
- Marilynne Robinson, Home
My son received a Wii gaming system for his birthday back in February. Great gift, huh? Well, great kid. One of the aspects of the Wii that makes Nintendo people slap-happy but fathers and mothers not-so-slappy is the fact that most, if not all, of the games you purchase for this system are $35-50. Whee!
He has his eyes on a particular game right now. He's played it at a friend's house and absolutely loves it. It's a decent game; I approve of it. Anyway, he approached me with a proposition, as is his custom: Dad, if I read some books this summer that you choose, will you buy me that game? I took his question to heart, as is my custom. Sure, my first-born-son. Let me think it over and I'll choose a couple of books. You'll have to give me an oral report after reading them though, o.k.? His smile assured me the deal was sealed.
It's been a challenge to select some books for him because he's already read so many; all the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Brian Jacques, Will Hobbs, Mike Lupica, and all the "Battle" books on his school's reading list. I did an online search for reading lists appropriate to middle school (he starts in the fall) which was encouraging/disappointing. He's read all those books already. That makes me very proud, but it turned what I thought would be an easy book pick into something harder, deeper, on the level of a quest. I don't want to give him too much of a book to read, content-wise, and at the same time, I know how horrible it is to read a book that constantly insults your intelligence.
If I could encourage my son, my first-born-son who often takes too much to heart, to read one book this summer, what would it be?
I selected Harper Lee's classic To Kill A Mockingbird. I handed him my copy and gave a brief character overview to get him started. I told him this was a book everyone needs to read but not everyone does. He said o.k. and immediately stepped into the story of Scout and Jem and Atticus and Dill and Boo. I also told him that after he finishes, we'll watch the movie together one evening, bathe ourselves in black and white and popcorn. We'll watch Atticus shoot that rabid dog in the street and see Scout's inherent scrap and hold our breath while that man spits in the face of Mr. Finch and feel sorry for Jem when he breaks his arm and be strangely drawn to a simple man named Boo Radley who stands in the shadows of a child's bedroom after saving the day.
Are my son's motives mixed in this endeavor? Sure. I don't care. I believe we're all about 7/10 bull anyway; we lived mixed lives. If somebody's always banging the drum as to how pure their motives are, I'd suggest not spending a lot of time with them. But as my son puts his hand to Lee's plow with his sights set on harvesting a video game, my prayer is that he will be swept away into the lives of those characters and take them too much to heart. His father experienced such a sweeping away many years ago. I do that, get swept away by things and take them too much to heart. As does my son.
He greeted me yesterday upon my return from the land of cubicles and copiers with a Hey, Dad, I like that book. Whee!