It seems like my posts are often inspired by op-ed pieces i read in the NY Times. This morning’s inspiration was an article written by author Alice Hoffman, entitled The Books of Summer. The article explores the phenomenon of associating a book that you read with a particular summer of your life, much like one associates particular songs or albums with a period of time (I was reminded of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” and my first boyfriend, and of the summer after my high school graduation, when my friends and I all were listening incessantly to Jane’s Addiction – ahhh. . . “Summertime Rolls.”)
But part of the article also discussed the summer that she and her mother both read the same novel, a time when she was on the cusp of womanhood, and her interests were meeting those of her mother, even as she and her mother were growing apart as mothers and daughters do.
As she described her, at the time, “modern mom” with the red lipstick, white sunglasses, slingbacks and turquoise and white sports car, I turned to thoughts of my own not-so-modern stay-at-home Mom. My Mom was not an anomaly; My mom was like the other moms I knew – she carpooled us in a faux wood-sided station wagon, fixed me peanut butter and honey sandwiches with Campbell’s tomato soup for lunch, and unfailingly watched All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital from 1 to 4 pm on weekdays.
I began to think, what books did my mom and I ever share? She is a voracious reader, but of the true crime, Law and Order, medical thriller variety; I enjoy historical fiction, non-fiction, and modern and classic literature. Then it dawned on me. . . .
We shared that southern girl’s rite of passage read, the one that southern women have been handing down to their daughters since 1932. I remember the summer that my grandmother gave me her copy, the same copy that she had bought as a young woman when it came out, and the one that my mom had probably pulled down off of the shelf and read herself. I remember starting it and thinking, “hmm. . this is good.” I still love the book, and i credit the book with fostering my love of history, especially Southern and American history, and in particular, an interest in the effects that the American Civil War had on people at the time, and which still resonate in the South to this day.
I still have that copy, with it’s tattered blue cover. And now that I am expecting my own little girl, I look forward to the rainy summer day when I can pull it out and share it with her.