If the four sisters in Little Women suddenly received a telegram announcing that they were really witches with secret powers, and their father needed their help fighting zombies in the Civil War, my daughter might have been a bit more interested when I proposed reading the book to her. As it was, though, she looked at me quite doubtfully when I told her that one of my favorite childhood classics is about “four sweet girls who lived a long time ago – before Facebook”.
As I pointed out, however, she had chosen the last couple of bedtime books, and it was my turn. “Just give it a try,” I said. “If you don’t like it after the first three chapters, we can pick something else.”
So, she settled in, and listened to this completely unbelievable tale of girls who endlessly lose or soil the gloves that they must wear to parties, and who think of pickled limes as the ultimate luxury.
As I read, I began to yearn, as I always do, for simpler times – times when receiving a pair of slippers at Christmas as one’s only gift was cause for great exuberance, and youngsters spent afternoons innocently picnicking and playing games like “Authors” instead of sexting each other or congregating at the shopping mall.
Last night, we read the chapter in Little Women called “Castles in the Air”, wherein each of the characters describes her dreams for the future. At the end, I closed the book, and asked Dimples about her castle in the air. As is usually the case when I ask such illogically sentimental questions of my 9-going-on-10 daughter, she just shrugged and said, “I don’t know.”
“What do you think mine is?” I asked, wondering if she was perceptive enough to realize that, like Jo, I have always wanted to be a published author, and probably wouldn’t mind being rich and famous to boot – with a castle on the beach instead of in the clouds.
“Here.” She waved around the room. “With me.”
In an instant, a wave swallowed my beach castle, and I said, “You’re right! As long as I’m with you, I am in my castle.”
“And you’ll always be in mine,” she replied, giving me an unexpected hug and nearly reducing me to tears.
“Christopher Columbus!” I thought, still in Jo March mode. “This book is actually rubbing off on her!”
Of course, once we get to the part where sweet little Beth dies, she’s going to kick me out of the castle and never let me choose a book again, so I guess I better draw this out as long as I can.
Dimples may be somewhat unsentimental, but she only tolerates novels in which the villains meet untimely deaths.