Reading Valentine Cards, Little House on the Prairie, and Charlotte’s Web

LauraBooks, Reading-aloud

When E.B. White recorded the final audiobook chapter of Charlotte’s Web, he couldn’t get past Charlotte’s death without crying. It took him 17  tries. We nod our heads and know why.

The time is coming – not soon enough – for me to pull our copy of Charlotte’s Web off the shelves for our annual reading. We wait until the lilacs are blooming on the lilac bush by the swing-set so I can read chapters at a time while little ones swing or join me on a quilt under the scented bush. I’ll never forget the year we spread the blanket out under the tree and were set to read when we realized that the 3 pigs had escaped their pen in the barn. We left the book and ran up to the barn. While the children waited outside, this farm-girl-in-theory-alone called out to the God and walked the pigs down the hallway to their stall. Each step in the right direction was both uncertain and wondrous. As if an angel led them, the pigs filed into their pen obediently. I fastened the latch and breathed again. The kids and I returned to the book and gaped when the chapter for the day was, “Pig’s Out!”

Until those lilacs bloom, we’ll be reading the final chapters of These Happy Golden Years, followed by The First Four Years. This is history for us: our first time reading through the entire Little House on the Prairie series aloud together. May it not be the last.

We’ve also been reading aloud the children’s valentine cards. One of my fondest childhood memories is when my dad and I would sit on the couch with my white paper bag full of valentines. Dad would take each card out, open it up, read aloud the message, fold it back up, and return it to the bag. I remember it so fondly because it felt reverent and grounded. I’m convinced that these moments helped me to love my classmates and to feel loved in return. It helped my dad to learn the names of my classmates so he could ask me about them later and recognize them when they came over to play. These 30-some years later, I snuggle next to my sons and daughters to open each card, read each message, and close it. This year, a bookmark valentine from “Lily R.” smells like grapes. We take turns inhaling its sweet scent then tuck the love notes back in the box. As February goes out like a lion with its wind and cold, we are tucked in by this tradition.