Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Empty bottles

I'm in the middle of a writing project, and it's kidnapping ever spare second that I have. "What's for dinner?" the kids ask, and I forage in the fridge for the chicken sausages. (Healthy, right? At least they aren't REAL hotdogs.) But the quiet afternoons are blissful, and I look forward to getting the twins in bed and situating myself at my desk. I get lost in a blizzard of books and papers, and the clock stares me down for the hour and a half I have to somehow think of something meaningful to say. My prayers as I sit down are admittedly very hurried, sounding something like this: "God, don't have a lot of time. You gotta work quick. Praying for your words and your thoughts." And some days, like yesterday, the words are steady, the thoughts cohere, and I close the laptop feeling like something happened. Other days (like today) I feel tired and sluggish. The words limp along, my energy wanes, and I quit before the finish line.

Wanted to share another great read for kids: Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo. (I've already recommended The Tale of Desperaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by her.) She has a wonderful character in this book, Gloria Dump. Gloria lives in the house with the overgrown yard - the neighborhood kids think she's a witch. But Winn-Dixie, the dog for whom the book is titled, one day gets away from the narrator, Opal, bounds into Gloria's backyard and when Opal finally catches up to him, he's eating a spoonful of peanut butter at the hand of Miss Gloria. She and Opal quickly become friends. Opal herself is a lonely little girl; she and her dad, the Preacher have just recently moved to Florida. Her mom, an alcoholic, left the family years ago. 

Several chapters later, we come to find out that Miss Gloria Dump was herself an alcoholic. And here's the haunting image I just can't get out of my mind. In her backyard, she's strung up empty wine, beer and liquor bottles in a tree. One day she asks Opal, "What do you think about that tree?"

'I said, "I don't know. Why are all those bottles on it?"

"To keep the ghosts away," Gloria said.

"What ghosts?"

"The ghosts of all the things I done wrong."

A great book for talking to your kids about guilt, forgiveness, loneliness, loss, and redemption.

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