Friday, May 18, 2012

Everlasting: Then and Now

just re-read: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Anyone who was in Mrs. Muscato's SAGE reading class at Sunrise Elementary undoubtedly remembers the "Good Books" quarterly(?) book report projects. Each student read a different book and completed an extensive report/questions/activities, and then for the next go-round selected a different book, which might be the one a friend had read the previous quarter, or the one a different friend would read the next quarter, or even the next school year, as SAGE students attended SAGE Reading from third through sixth grades. The rotating list of titles included loads of classics: A Wrinkle in Time, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Witch at Blackbird Pond, My Brother Sam Is Dead, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, etc., and we were all aware of which ones our classmates were reading. I never got around to some of the books, such as A Separate Peace, although I read that later in life. Everyone did Bridge to Terabithia at some point in SAGE; that was sort of the all-around acclaimed favorite. "It's soooo good!!" we would gush to one another when we were on our Terabithia rotation. But I had a secret, at ten years old: I liked Tuck Everlasting more.

Not everyone cycled through Tuck Everlasting; it was a bit more obscure of a choice. I remember being drawn to it and feeling a sense of calmness in its pages, a depth. Occasionally when I worked at Borders during my twenties I spied a copy of it in the children's section and was glad to know it was still around. I noticed when the movie was made a while back, but I didn't go see it -- the vivid image from my childhood reading was still sufficient in my mind. Last week, as I strolled through the Phoenix Public Library looking for something else, I noticed the book on a shelf and picked it up, wondering if I would like it as much now as I did 25 years ago. I stood there and started reading.

I ended up checking it out of course, to bring home and savor again.

There's a mention early in chapter one of the wood that belongs to the Fosters. "The ownership of land is an odd thing when you come to think of it," the narration tells us. "How deep after all can it go? If a person owns a piece of land, does he own it all the way down...Or does ownership consist only of a thin crust under which the friendly worms have never heard of trespassing?"

Interesting, I thought, standing there in the library children's section. This is how I think.

I began remembering how philosophical Tuck Everlasting is. Then, Winnie starts talking to the toad, and I remembered the toad. I remembered that the toad was significant --significant enough, as I recall, that there was a question about him in the Good Books set of activity questions.

When I got home from the library, I lay on the couch and quickly devoured the book, relating once again to the part where Winnie doesn't want to keep the fish they catch so they throw it back, remembering the house and the pond and the man in the yellow suit and the sheriff, reliving the jail switcheroo late in the book, Jesse's offer, and the fate of the toad.

At our ten-year high school reunion, a friend of mine observed that while people had changed quite a bit since high school in many ways, there was something about the essence of a person that remained the same, recognizable, an inner something that was still just them. There is some Linda-ness in me that was in me at age nine that is still in me in my thirties. This book, with its profound message and big philosophical questions and somewhat earthy-crunchy/somewhat atheist sensibility, spoke to that Lindaness then -- before I even knew how much those things were a part of my Lindaness -- and still speaks to that Lindaness now. 

I guess my love for Tuck Everlasting is...well...everlasting!

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