My Life With Harriet

It was in 4th grade when I first read Harriet the Spy. If I recall that long ago, my mother encouraged me in picking it out from the Trumpet Book Club or Scholastic Book Fair that I was so lucky to have access to in elementary school. My mom, who wasn’t much of a reader in adulthood, still ensured that I was surrounded by plenty of reading materials. Since it was originally published in 1964, my mom had fond memories of Harriet the Spy as a kid. She felt that it would be beneficial if I created my own.11927448_10153605462999803_4000456873288842970_o

I remember dragging my copy of Harriet the Spy around as a kid: on road trips, in the bathroom, to school, to the baby-sitter’s, wherever I might have even five minutes to take in a few pages. At that age a nearly 300 page book was slightly intimidating. Even now I don’t take in too many novels much longer. But with Harriet, I just wanted to get as close to her as possible. In 4th and 5th grade I remember being very confused at the new group dynamics that were taking place in the classroom. Cliques began to form, other kids were on the outskirts or beginning puberty and acting in ways I thought at the time were wackadoo. I was beginning to question my Catholic upbringing and was regularly reprimanded for my ponderings in CCD class (Catholic Sunday school held on Tuesday nights).  Harriet was also curious about why people did what they do and why they think a certain way. I felt a kinship in questioning life with Harriet. She kept me company even when she was waterlogged (whoops bathtub!) and spine cracked.

Recently, I re-engaged with Harriet with a close read. As we are all worried that our childhood favorites won’t hold up in adulthood (a reason I haven’t read The Catcher in the Rye in over 15 years) I went into my reading with slight trepidation. Would I find Harriet a total uncaring brat? In my brain was a scene from the movie adaptation of Michelle Trachtenburg (pre-Dawn Summers) screeching at the top of her lungs. As soon as I hit the passage where Harriet is ignoring the morning Bible reading at school choosing to write instead, “Ole Golly says there is as many ways to live as there are people on the earth and I shouldn’t go ‘round with blinders but should see every way I can,” I knew I was welcoming Harriet right into my heart all over again.  At 35 this is still how I try to live my life. Is that inherent? Was it instilled through my friendship with fictional Harriet? Did she confirm what I had always had in me and I see her as someone to refer to when feeling like I’m sometimes living more as an observer rather than participant of society?
I couldn’t relate to the fact that Harriet had a nanny and lived in an upscale part of New York City, but the connection was there. I wasn’t about to laser off the tattoo I had gotten at age 19 from one of the original illustrations in the book. I had gotten my tattoo of Harriet while going through a trying time in my mental health battle with my anxiety causing disassociation and I still felt secure in that decision to keep her with me. “Is everybody a different person when they are with someone else?” Harriet ponders. It’s only recently I am starting to be able answer these types questions, even then without complete certainty. I am so grateful to have a book to continuously go back to throughout my life and can come out of each reading with even more questions but also more answers than each previous visit.

My bookish Halloween.

It started on Friday when we were able to dress up at work and had a lovely little potluck. I knew I wanted to go literary this year, but there was so much to choose from. I went with an old favorite who is widely recognizable, Pippi Longstocking. 12122622_10153714394854803_6790815025528300368_nBeing super introverted I already teeter a line of being comfortable in costume, but I find that if I don’t have to explain a not so popular fandom it feels good to dress up. Pippi

In September I decided that I was going to give out books on Halloween in addition to candy. (I would NEVER cheat the trick or treaters out of their candy!) Usually I drag a table to the end of my driveway to pass out candy because my yard isn’t well-lit and I don’t need kids who already can’t see through their masks tripping over a pine cone. But this year, my neighborhood decided to do a “trunk-or-treat” in the parking lot of our pool. So, I spent some time thrifting and yard sailing for used kids books. My cousin was also extremely helpful in mailing me a stack of books her daughter had outgrown. I tried to get a pretty good mix for all age groups, being that trick-or-treating is for the tiny toddler up to teenager.

I drove across to the pool to get all set up for our 6 PM start time.  After tangling myself in spider webs and trying to figure out how to keep a string of Halloween garland from falling from atop the car I had what I thought was a pretty good setup that I dubbed “The LiBOOrary.”  Liboorary

Kids began to stop by the festivities and I watched as their faces lit up when I tossed some candy into their bags and said, “You can also pick a book.”  Much of the response was, “Any book I want!?!?!?” I was so happy to see the positive reaction. Even better, so many parents really liked the idea. I didn’t see any of them hovering or try to influence the child’s pick. I am kicking myself for not counting how many books I started with, but by 7:40 I was out. (Still plenty of candy though.)

As long as I can afford it, this will become my new Halloween tradition, and I invite anyone else who wants to snag the idea to do so. Of course, let me know if you do next year so we can compare notes. Upon observation I need to plan for more middle grade and YA books next time and probably need to start collecting in August at the latest. Hopefully I can get more donations and not have to spend quite as much cash. Happy BOOkish Halloween!