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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.