Last week as I was dusting the bookcase in my bedroom, I saw a book sitting on the shelf and thought, "That's a book I've always loved. Why haven't I shared it with the girls?" Determined to correct that, I sat down with B and K a few nights ago and read them part of Where the Sidewalk Ends. This book is old (more than thirty years old, in fact), worn and well-loved. On our first reading, we only got through a few poems before we needed to pack up and leave to meet someone. So last night, while the girls finished eating their dinner, I read to them.
If you're unfamiliar with this book, it's a collection of children's poetry with rhythmic words, funny punch lines and fabulous illustrations. I've always loved to read, but this is the book that made me love poetry for the first time. I received it the summer I was seven and I've held onto it ever since - through college, moves and more. It's interesting to read this book to B (age 9) and K (age 6) together. B gets every punch line, sometimes even before it arrives, but I sometimes have to explain a joke to K, who isn't as adept at reading between the lines. Even given B's love for words and her sharp mind, I was blindsided, stunned and touched by her insight after one particular poem.
Here's the poem:
Hector the CollectorAnd here are the illustrations:
by Shel Silverstein
Hector the Collector
Collected bits of string,
Collected dolls with broken heads
And rusty bells that would not ring.
Pieces out of picture puzzles,
Bent-up nails and ice-cream sticks,
Twists of wires, worn-out tires,
Paper bags and broken bricks.
Old chipped vases, half shoelaces,
Gatlin' guns that wouldn't shoot,
Leaky boats that wouldn't float
And stopped-up horns that wouldn't toot.
Butter knives that had no handles,
Copper keys that fit no locks,
Rings that were too small for fingers,
Dried-up leaves and patched-up socks.
Worn-out belts that had no buckles,
'Lectric trains that had no tracks,
Airplane models, broken bottles,
Three-legged chairs and cups with cracks.
Hector the Collector
Loved these things with all his soul‹
Loved them more than shining diamonds,
Loved them more than glistenin' gold.
Hector called to all the people,
"Come and share my treasure trunk!"
And all the silly sightless people
Came and looked...and called it junk.
I paused after reading the poem and said to K, "How is he feeling?" Before K could answer, B said, "But that's right. Now he's like his stuff. Broken."
I was stunned. I've read this poem dozens of times and never, ever thought of it that way. My shock must have shown on my face because she said, "What? I'm just making a connection like they teach us to at school." Well, that's definitely a connection. She's right about that.
I puzzled over what to title this post. My first idea was "daunting" because I'll confess it's a bit daunting to think about homeschooling this child next year. Can I keep up with her? Can I challenge her? Can I teach her all that she's capable of learning? I also considered "inspiring" as a title because I trying to keep B challenged will no doubt inspire me to make my own connections.
But as daunting and inspiring as this is to me, it's also exciting. Because when a child is making these kinds of connections for herself - when she's thinking so quickly and so deeply all on her own - how much fun will it be to teach her? All I'll really have to do is put great books, engaging opportunities and lots of questions in front of her. She and her amazing mind will do the rest. And the best part? We'll be so much more connected after investigating, learning, talking and living life together. I feel certain that a year together will leave us with connections we can't even imagine right now.