I have a collection of books from my childhood. National Velvet, Secret Garden, Little Women, Heidi and Carol from the Country are favorites of mine from many, many years ago.
Toward the end of the last school year, I started reading from those familiar friends to the girls before bed. We tried to do a chapter at a time -- truthfully, some nights we only made it through a few pages. We started with The Hundred Dresses, went to Heidi and then Carol from the Country. The latest was Little House in the Big Woods. Ah, Laura, Mary, Pa, Ma and don't forget baby Carrie.
My girls could not believe that sugar snow and dolls made out of leaves and branches could keep children entertained all day long. And, how could listening to the fiddle each evening be entertainment. Well, the Adams girls bought in to the Big Woods country life. And, they bought into it hard. Talk of threshers, venison and calico happened throughout the days and weeks it took us to get through the 13 chapters. The black and white line drawings in my copy of the book helped them focus on the story. Not every page had a picture . . . the story required imagination. Imagine, that?
My first, second and third parts of the day all work toward a fourth part for me, yes. But, I'll tell you reading to the girls during that last part of the third part is something to treasure. It's been a pleasure re-visiting these stories I loved and read and read and re-read and re-read while I was growing up. It's been fun talking through the stories with the girls. Plus, some of the books were from the Devine library where my grandmother served as librarian and I spent many a summer shelving and sorting books. While I'm not quite sure how I ended up with Devine library books -- out of circulation -- I know it was a pay-it-forward, future gift from my grandmother to share with the great-granddaughters she didn't get to meet.
It seems when I settle into my fourth part of the day after I've read to the girls, I feel a bit calmer and more grounded. That's the best start to a fourth part, right? Sitting and pausing, relaxing and enjoying the activity set ahead for me.
Tonight, we finished Little House . . . knocked out that last eight pages in Chapter 13. I had stacked up a few 'nexts' -- National Velvet and Heidi Grows Up. After I said, 'the end,' Camille let out the sweetest sigh. I knew that meant she felt it end and had enjoyed the book. When a bit of time soaking up the last few pages set in, she said, 'Can we read Heidi Grows Up next?'
It worked. They want the next part. They want to continue the reading. They are connecting to the stories I loved so much when I was their age.
All this after a late arrival home tonight (leftovers were already in order for dinner) and a dash to the nail salon because I travel the next couple of days and the nails were looking really ragged. Not an ideal third part on a day that is an activity-free, no football game day. A 'you can get your fingernails and toenails painted, too' promise helped get everyone out the door for a 6:30 p.m. walk-in appointment.
The girls picked four colors each -- two for the toes, two for the fingers. All four for each of them were neon shades of orange, pink, green, purple, pink and blue. Full-on, can't let summer go kind of colors.
I picked a dark, slate gray. Summer, over. Fall, here. Since I'm traveling to a new place Friday, spending time with work people who don't know me yet, I went with a more subtle color, rather than my dark-Baylor green or sapphire blue.
Then, Nancy picked me. The nail tech was new to me. And, it was meant to be that she and I were paired up for the hour. She shared her story with me and for a third part that was really a fourth part, I soaked up every moment and didn't want the hour to end. Even my girls patiently sat without electronics, books or crayons while I listened to her story.
She's from Vietnam. She's been here three years. She's a single mom. Her middle-school-aged daughter and high-school-aged son just came to America six months ago. Six months ago. They were separated from each other for two and a half years. Then, her children come here and all she does is work for them.
She shared that her son has adjusted a bit more quickly and has found his niche -- computers and science. He has permission (she said it was a permit) to use his phone in class so he can have the teacher's words translated.
Her daughter has struggled. She has made friends, but the homework drives her to tears most evenings. Nancy said she is in tears along with her because she can't help. At the beginning of the school year, Nancy met with the school counselor who said she should email the teachers. Nancy said she doesn't know English well enough to write and spell. She tried and the teachers could not understand her daughter's needs.
Last night, Nancy had meet the teacher night at the middle school. She said she met the young science teacher and knew that things would be OK. The science teacher said she would help, tutor and be available to her daughter whenever she needed her. Nancy said this teacher is in her second year of teaching.
Nancy wrapped up the story (after the third coat of polish) by telling me she explains to her children that they have so much to be thankful for here in America. Schools, freedoms and opportunity. She also tells them they have to work harder than American children but they can achieve and be successful. She kept touching her chest where her heart is and teared up and she spoke to me. I teared up, too.
Chris had an assignment earlier this week about what it means to be an American in light of politics and the topic of immigration law. He wrote about the refugees and immigrants he went to high school with and that being an American was about opportunity and chances and freedom.
Nancy believes that and is passing that to her children. I don't know if they are going to be citizens, if they have visas or green cards or what. I do know they are productive and working hard to be successful.
The third part today, which was supposed to be an errand became a lesson for my girls and a reflection for me. I know teachers touch lives (my husband, right? My dad, my sisters, my brothers in law!) and I know some students work harder than others. Yet, this story hit me. Nancy's story -- right down the street from me -- is as real as real can be. It made me stop, take a breath and be grateful for all I have.
At the end of Little House in the Big Woods, Pa fiddles and sings 'shall auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind.' Laura asks what days of auld land syne are and Pa replies with 'they are the days of long ago.'
Laura continues to listen and looks around the little house and thought to herself 'this is now.'
"She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.'
Now is now. Nancy's family is here with her now. My family is here with me now. I'm typing with dark gray finger nails and watching the third part of the RHONY reunion. I look around my cozy house, see my husband, hear my son, know my girls are tucked asleep and they won't be forgotten. First part, second part, third part or fourth are all just parts of now. Parts of each day. Each part won't be forgotten.
Now is now.