I first found E.B. White’s book, Charlotte’s Web, in 1970, my first year of teaching. I had fifth graders, and we listened on a vinyl record, to the author reading the book aloud. I can still recall White’s voices for Charlotte and Templeton. They became my model when I read the book aloud to my students, year after year, and then later to special children friends and grandkids and nieces and nephews.
One of my favorite parts of the book is the chapter describing the children swinging in the barn door. I asked my listeners to close their eyes and feel the air rush by them as the author described the swing moving back and forth in the open barn door. Now that’s powerful writing! People discount the wisdom of children’s literature and this book is chocked full of lessons for living.
The story of Wilbur and Charlotte was brought to mind as I thought of my mother. She was a good writer and a good friend. I painted a plate for Mom once with a spider and web on it, and inscribed White’s closing words from Charlotte on the back. On my tree, I have an ornament with a spider and a web to remind me. Here some of the lessons I learned from this book, over the years:
A good friend is without measure.
A good friend, who is a good writer, is an even greater gift.
A rat is a rat, but even rats have endearing attributes, which is why con artists can con.
The seasons each bring hope and joy.
Life is precious.
Be kind to others, as it doesn’t cost anything.
Generosity of spirit is free, too.
People are easily fooled, because they often overlook the obvious.
I miss my worn and dog-eared copy of this timeless children’s classic. It is in the custody of my former spouse. I asked that he send me my books, but he ignored my request. It It doesn’t matter, though. That’s why we have bookstores and Amazon.Com. I am making a list of my missing favorite books, and in the coming year, I am going to replace those books. I will scour used books stores, and place on my shelves those comforting volumes once loved by someone else who didn’t get custody, either. Things can be replaced. A peaceful life cannot.