My son, Owen, is right on the cusp of learning how to read. He knows all of his letter sounds, and is starting to blend together sounds and context clues. As I watch him, piecing together language like a weaver selects her fibers, it's hard for me to contain my excitement.
I know what it all means. I know that his world is about to become much grander. Soon, very soon, he will walk into the pages of a book. If he is lucky, and it is the right book, he will walk out changed.
It's a miracle.
I just finished Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. My friend had recommend the book, saying that when she read the final lines, she sat there, feeling such gratitude for this author, such incredible thankfulness that he brought this world to her fingertips.
I immediately put the book on hold at the library. And indeed, when I read it, the book changed me. It made me want to be a better person. It want to smell my sons' hair, and take walks with my husband.
After reading this book, I put the reusable bags by my front seat, so I would use them when I shopped---no more excuses! I bought a thermos so I would stop wasting so many paper cups at Starbucks. I ate carrots at lunch instead of leftover Mac and Cheese.
Dudes--this book made me consider birdwatching.
If that is not a miracle, I don't know what is.
I dream of reading books with my boys someday. They are different than the books I imagined reading with my fictional daughters. I don't expect my sons to get all that excited about Anne of Green Gables.
But I do expect that they will be moved by the gorgeous fatherhood of Atticus Finch. I know they will grow up with Harry Potter. I hope they also love The Westing Game, and laugh with the Wimpy Kid.
I'll even tolerate Tolkien if gets them to worship the holy alchemy of paper and thought.
I hope that someday, when they are mired in adolescence, and I am hopelessly uncool, that we can still talk about books. I hope that the words of authors can still bridge those gaps, and momentarily, at least, make us both human.
We aren't there yet, but we will be soon. Today, I sat with my son and turned the pages, encouraging him to sight-read a few words from one of those "my first" books.
As I watched Owen sound out "Ha-p-py" and then cry out, "HAPPY!" joyous in his discovery, I want to yell it right back.
"He is READING! And I. AM. HAPPY!"
After all, how often do you discover the entire world?