Wednesday, May 27, 2009

20 Boy Summer

For the last week or so Mia and I have been reading a chapter each night from one of my favorite books from when I was a child: No Flying in the House by Betty Brock. I read it repeatedly as a kid, so when I found it at Goodwill recently I couldn't wait to share it with Mia. Reading nightly to her is one of those goals that I always have, but rarely meet as often as I should. I'm a mom who tries to create "moments" for the family. You know what I mean; moments that will live in the collective family memory forever along with the beautifully scrapbooked pictures. Every one is dressed nicely with appropriate facial expressions, and everything, EVERYTHING goes according to plan, my plan.

Needless to say these moments are few and far between. I plan every minute item to make it perfect, but as things start going wrong, my stress level climbs until I'm snapping at everyone, and the moment is no longer perfect; it's not even one anyone wants to remember!

I started thinking about this the other day when I remembered a box that my mother let me play with very rarely when I was a child. It was light blue with pink flowers I think on the lid, and she kept it in the buffet in the music room. In my entire childhood, I think I only was allowed to play with it 4-5 times. Mom saved it for those rare occasions when I had completely and utterly exhausted every resource I had to save me from boredom. It was filled with Cracker Jack prizes she had saved from her own childhood: tiny plastic mazes, little figures of cowboys and Indians, joke books, etc. Each item was its own little treasure for me, and I took them out one by one and played with it before removing the next. Those afternoons are wonderful memories for me, but if those were the only memories I had of time with my mother, how sad that would be! Those were special moments, but they had very little to do with who I grew up to be.

I don't remember Mom and Dad reading to me nightly, although I know they did (Your duck's white and mine is pink. Both are jolly don't you think? Right, Dad?) because I was reading at four and obviously have retained a deep love of it today. I don't remember most of the afternoons I came home from school or the suppers Mom made every night either, but the collective warmth of the few memories I have tell me that love was a part of my daily diet from both my mother and father.

It's made me rethink how I try to schedule moments and times with my children. I think it's far more important for me to be there for them every day, supplying love and their daily needs, than it is to have those scrapbook ready moments. Mia will probably not actually remember me reading her No Flying in the House, but hopefully when she thinks about the book, she will remember it fondly and want to share it with her own child, because of the time we spend cuddling in bed while I do poor British accents and read about a little girl who can kiss her elbow.

20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler is a terrific beach read for older teenage girls and their mothers. Anna Reilly spent her entire childhood in love with best friend (and neighbor) Frankie's brother Matt. Anna's wish on her 15th birthday is for Matt to kiss her, and before the night is through, her wish comes true as Matt confesses his feelings for her. He makes her promise not to reveal their relationship to Frankie, because he will take care of that when their family goes to California for summer vacation. The day before the trip, Matt dies in a tragic accident, and the secret remains untold. Fast forward a year: Anna's going to California with Frankie and her parents, and the girls make a vow to meet twenty boys in their twenty days in the sun, but Anna's heart still belongs to Matt, and she doesn't know how to let go. Ockler does a wonderful job of depicting teenage love with its intensity and confusion. Her portrayal of the grief experienced by the girls is heartbreaking, from Frankie's acting out to Anna's withdrawal. Anna's emotions and hormones are running high, but Ockler handles that with sensitivity, while Anna doesn't always make the best choices, she has a good heart, and the reader can't help but ache with her. My fifteen-year old daughter Molly also read the book and said: I thought the book was good. It expressed a girl's thoughts very clearly, although it dragged at times. Molly finished the book almost as soon as she got it and has since reread some of her favorite scenes (like the birthday cake fight), which is always the mark of a book she truly likes. By the end of the novel, Anna learned a great deal about being a friend and in love and what it means to be true to yourself.

Just a warning for Christian parents/teens: this book would be rated PG-13 for some sexual scenes and alcohol use.

Today was Doogie's last day of school! He has a busy few days ahead of him: banquet, picnic, award ceremony, rehearsal, plus filling out job applications. The reality hasn't hit me yet; I'm not quite sure how I will react when it does.