Wednesday, May 30, 2012

118th Carnival of Genealogy: Reading!

My paternal grandmother, Marilyn Mulcahy, whom I called Nan, died when I was 4, so I unfortunately don't remember her well, and most of what I know about her I know in an intellectual sense, not a relational sense. But there's one way in which I've always felt connected to her, and that was through reading.

My dad used to tell me that I was the only person he knew - other than his mother - who would read the same book more than once. It was clear to me that Nan and I were somehow the only people with knowledge of an incredibly obvious secret: if you can watch your favorite movie more than once, and watch reruns of your favorite tv show, and listen to your favorite song multiple times, why on earth wouldn't you read your favorite book (or 10) every year or so?

Being known for reading could be something of a curse for an elementary school student. A friend of mine spread the rumor that she had found me reading the dictionary, and I was made fun of for it, despite my protests. (It wasn't that I had any theoretical objection to reading the dictionary, it was just that she had never seen me do it - of that I was certain.) I had a tendency to read in places that my classmates didn't consider socially acceptable - like the bus, and the playground, and the lunch line - and places my teachers didn't think were appropriate - like under my desk while they were teaching. I was so known for being a reader that I spent years where my relatives' go-to conversation starter was "So have you read any good books lately?" (Given how often I reread books, this did not often lead to new and interesting conversations, and I struggled with how to respond.)

But being known as a reader could also be a boon, one I wouldn't fully appreciate for several years. Nan's sister, Aunt Betty, showed up at a family party when I was about 10, and gave me some books that my grandmother had read when she was younger. I received Nan's own copies of several books, with her name in them (as well as some scribbles and notes left when the much younger Betty tried to imitate her sister in reading a book she was otherwise uninterested in). I certainly appreciated being the recipient of those books.

Aunt Betty also relayed just how Nan had utilized her reputation as a reader: apparently as a girl she was so quiet, well-mannered, and well-behaved, and so content to sit and read while grown-ups went about their business that her parents would take her along to places that kids wouldn't otherwise have been invited to. I'm told that this worked out well until she was one day caught sitting there "reading" - with the book upside down, taking in the grown-up conversation around her! (This was something I always kept in mind but - unfortunately - never had the opportunity to emulate.)


Jasia said...

Oh what a cute story about being caught "reading" the upside down book. How fun! And what a great gift you received from your Aunt. True treasures! Thanks so much for sharing and contributing to the COG, Kathleen!

J.M. said...

Lovely post! And loved the anecdote about your grandmother :D

Kristin said...

Your grandmother probably overheard some interesting conversations before she made that fatal mistake. Nice to receive her old books!

Joan said...

My personal favorite in this post was telling about reading under the school desk! That is a dedicated reader. Nana would be proud of you.