Sunday, October 27, 2013

Memory Moments

Last week I announced to my students that we were going to learn the final comprehension strategy from Notice and Note:Strategies for Close Reading (Beers and Probst, 2013). From the back row, came a sardonic response, "Now that's a real shame." God bless the middle school teacher who learns to dance in the valley of sarcasm.  Glancing back at the young man who was smiling harmlessly, I acknowledged his "heartache" and told him that it was indeed a sad day in Literature 8.

The "Memory Moment" is a time in a text when the action or narrative is interrupted to revisit a memory. It looks a lot like the flashback often used in film and literature. In fact, having learned that my students speak in the language of media, I showed an example of a memory moment from a Harry Potter movie when Hagrid is telling Harry about his parents and why he (Harry) is so well known at Hogwarts. Using these clips seems to give the students a solid idea of what we are looking for. From there, we read an excerpt from" Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen that is in their literature books. In the story, the memory helps the character survive in the wilderness. We shared examples of memory moments from our own lives and from the books the students are currently reading.

This weekend I had a chance to revisit memories myself as I was a co-presenter at the Mothering Mennonite Symposium on Literature, Liturgy and Life: From Mother to Daughter. My mother, age 85 and reader of some 70 books a year was my partner in this presentation. In the evening, I was a participant in the 25th anniversary of Eighth Day Books, a local independent bookstore my father frequented with love and devotion during the last 12 years or so of his life. Both experience provided lots of time to reflect on memories about reading and the love of all things literary.

I remember:
  • many dusty bookstores with wooden floors and pale sunlight that glanced off hardcover volumes
  • my dad always talking with the bookshop owners while I perched somewhere nearby and leafed through more books
  • lots of library cards, glued on library pockets and dates scattered askew on the lines of the date due pages
  • being freshly scrubbed, pajama clad, and seated on the couch anticipating the nightly Winnie the Pooh chapter
  • hearing my parents talk in the language of books at the table, from the pulpit, in the easy chairs with their feet up
  • birthdays, Christmas, coming home from a trip occasions always meant a tell-tale package wrapped undisguised so the only mystery left, "Which book is it?"
  • Papa Small, Nine Magic Wishes, Little House on the Prairie, The Secret Garden
  • the smell of print and wonder
  • Coffee tables,  shelves and table tops as holding places for books
  • Reading my parents' parenting books so I could recognize their newest attempts at communicating with us, their offspring
  • Loving the sound of new words
  • Imagining characters and settings from the words on the pages
  • Thinking that Cat in the Hat was silly and pointless
  • Reading and rereading my favorites
  • The creak of wooden doors as bookcases were opened and closed to select a treasured collection of poems or essays
  • My mother's soft frame, my father's aftershave as I snuggled next to them and heard the familiar cadence of  their voices and watched their steady hands turn the pages
Richly blessed,

~ Ellen~

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