Sunday, May 17, 2009

Looking Back by Molly Weston

Molly Weston lives, reads, and writes in Apex, NC. She is a former magazine editor at the FPG Child development Center at UNC-Chapel Hill and she has followed retirement with lots more jobs - media escort, mystery reviewer and lecturer, director of senior singers, and daylily garden queen. For the past year she's been heavily involved in a plan to obtain an oral history of her hometown.

You can enjoy Molly's reviews along with some terrific interviews at Molly's blog, Meritorious Mysteries.

And you can see some of the gorgeous daylilies
Molly and husband Noel grow at their Lakeview Daylily Farm.

Looking Back
by Molly Weston

When I was growing up, everybody in our house—all three of us—liked to sleep late in the mornings. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I was a sickly child and my parents spent many nights holding me over a vaporizer so I could breathe, but nevertheless, we all liked to cut our mornings short. Sunday school and church were a given in our family, so we did everything we could to get ready on Saturday night. Mother would get her clothes and mine ready, and Daddy would spend a lot of time matching proposed ties to his suit.

I don't remember being offered choices in what I would wear, but I was
responsible for shining my shoes myself. This was fun in the summertime, because I could shine them outside on the back porch. "Save me a biscuit," was my perpetual Saturday night whine. I'd take the cold biscuit, break it carefully in half, and "shine" my patent leather Mary Janes—half a biscuit for each shoe. When I could see my face in the toes, I was done.

Even with everything ready, we had to scurry to get to church on time. We really
liked to sleep as late as possible! On time for our family meant being there early enough to get a parking place near the building. Drawn to a sitting position with arthritis, Daddy walked with a crutch and a walking cane and he never took any unnecessary steps. Even though folks would save his special seat for the preaching services, we had to be early to get that door side parking place.

As a consequence, Mother had to make our Sunday meals from scratch when we got
home from church. She was an excellent cook. Her only daughter was a picky eater. Fried chicken dinners were favorites for all of us. My mother did everything fast, so she didn't need a small child underfoot while grease was popping on the stove. That's how the "red funnies" became important.

Then, as today, the comic section of the newspaper was expanded and in color on
Sundays. Daddy's favorite chair was a platform rocker. I'd crawl into his lap, and, together, we'd read the "red funnies." Now reading the funnies doesn't usually take very long—certainly not long enough to fry chicken, cook vegetables, and make gravy and biscuits and the inevitable iced tea—but, my daddy, unlike my mother, did everything slowly and thoroughly. Reading the comics was no exception. He'd point to the first comic, tell me the name of the strip, and then go on to describe all the characters and what they were doing and saying. He would even tell me what the always silent "Henry" was thinking.

Reading the funnies was a magical trip for me. Daddy read every one of
them—Prince Valiant and his Medieval times, flying ace Steve Canyon, baldheaded Henry, teenaged Penny Pringle and her pipe-smoking father, The Phantom in mysterious Africa, Blondie and Dagwood (especially his sandwiches)—and I was introduced to the whole gang, whether or not they were age appropriate. I was a happy child! Somehow he made the funny papers last until Mother announced from the kitchen, "Dinner's ready!" (For all you folks not blessed to be long-time Southerners, dinner was in the middle of the day, every day.)

Today, I often teach workshops on early literacy. I talk about reading with
young children, giving them one-on-one time while reading, and making reading a ritual. I talk about letting young children see adults reading. I remind parents that children who are read to usually become good readers. Then I look back and think, maybe Sunday afternoons with the "red funnies" was just one start on my lifelong love affair with reading.


Vicki Lane said...

What a nice memory, Molly! I was blessed with a grandfather who read to me -- and I read to my children till they snatched the books from me saying they'd rather do it themselves.

Carol Murdock said...

Molly...that was wonderful! I was read to, I read to my children, who now read to theirs. It, like all things in families became a cycle,a wonderful cycle, one I hope never ends!
Your mention of dinner puts me in mind of Sheila Kay Adams who in her presentation at the BRBF last weekend said;

" Where'd that word lunch come from?
We didn't have no lunch, it was dinner at noon and supper of an evening."
My sentiments exactly!

~ Carol ~

Lesa said...

Thank you, Molly. What a wonderful memory to have of reading with your father. I can't remember not "reading" a newspaper or magazine, and we have numerous pictures of me.

But, for actual reading, my husband read the sports section with his father. To this day, he loves sports, and reading.

Lesa Holstine

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Molly: That's the sweetest story! Thank you...

You know, back home in Indiana, there was a guy who read the Sunday funnies on the radio--but we used to angle for places on the couch Sunday mornings and try to share the paper and read them ourselves.

Five kids, one paper. So there were many battles!

But my step-son now reads the comics to our grandson Eli, and he does just the same thing--makes it interactive and thought-provoking and connecting. And it brings happy tears to my eyes.

Just like your lovely essay!

xo Hank


Auntie Knickers said...

That is a great story, Molly, and really so appropriate for your literacy work -- the "funnies" may not be as threatening to parents who aren't quite confident in their reading skills, and as you point out, sharing the funnies can be as useful a road to lifelong reading as sharing "the classics."

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for sharing your Sunday memories, Molly. I used to love to read the funnies, too. Now my mother clips and sends them to us (no funnies in the NY Times) and I read them to my son. He's a beginning reader and insists that he gets to read aloud "Smack," "Z," "Bam," and other simple words. So it really is helping him learn to read.

Msmstry said...

Thanks, kind ladies, for your affirming comments.

Reading rocks!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Molly - this is a great story!!!!

Aubrey Hamilton said...

What a great story! I distinctly remember The Phantom in the Sunday comics. The comics, as others have said, are a wonderful source for the newly literate.

Bo Parker said...

Molly, a great piece of nostalgia. The etymologists tell is that one of the roots of this word comes form the Old English word genesan (to survive).

I have come to look at life as a trip through time. As young people, we ride along, participating in and storing away the events that each day brings. But a large part of our being is focused on the future, the unknown, something for which we dream and wish and plan and hope.

As we mature into adulthood, this perspective shifts. We live much more centered on the present. The future becomes something closer and more clearly defined. We dream less and plan more to address the demands presented by the events of the day.

Then at a certain age, the perspective shifts again. The past becomes a larger part of our being than the future. We no longer dream and plan for the future as we did in our youth. Our life has come to fruition. We have, as the old axiom goes, made our bed and now we must lie in it. How well we rest on the bed of old age depends on the amount of padding we have to support us.

It’s seems to me that as we grow older, memories from our childhood and the sense of comfort associated with them, become a bigger part of that padding. Maybe that’s what folks mean when they talk about entering our second childhood.
Bo Parker
The Old Cobbler