Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Summer of Classics: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Without a doubt, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith has to be one of the most poignant and beautiful books I have ever read.  From the first page, I was hooked.  I wanted to know Francie Nolan.  I wanted to watch who she would become.  I wanted to know her hardships and find the beauty in the life she lived.

As I read further, I found myself in love with the whole Nolan family.  I can't imagine a stronger mother than Katie Nolan.  I hope to be half as good a mother as Katie - I also hope to never feel the poverty she endured to give her children everything she did.  The whole family worked, and hungered, and ached, and shivered together.  They wanted for so much.  And yet... somehow, they had so much.

They shared love and laughter.  They shared their hard-earned dollars.  They never hesitated to give everything they had for each other.  They created memories - beautiful memories.  The Nolans were at peace with who they were and from where they came from.  Such amazing strength.  And the motivation of that Francie!  What a child!  So imaginative.  So honest.  So able to overcome.

I had heard the following quote before:

"Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry...have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere-be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost."

And this speaks to me.  As a daughter, wife, friend, coworker, mother.  Let me be something every minute.  And more so, let me appreciate who I am every minute. 

And the best explanation I have ever known for believing in Santa (I still believe, to this day):

"Because," explained Mary Rommely simply, "the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination. I, myself, even in this day and at my age, have great need of recalling the miraculous lives of the Saints and the great miracles that have come to pass on earth. Only by having these things in my mind can I live beyond what I have to live for."