Note: I wrote this entry a few weeks ago and must have forgot to publish it. I found it on a tiny break from my SVU and pumpkin-chocolate chip bread binge.
My grandmother recently gave a reading from her latest anthology of poetry, and as I made my way there, I realized how long it had been since I had attended a poetry or fiction reading. Growing up, book readings were to my family what softball games are to most. My mother, her father and his wife (my grandmother) are all writers. My dad is a journalist who credits his mother with making him bookish. She was an English professor and poet. Readings were a place to gather, catch up and support each other's creativity.
As I sat in the hushed, warmly lit room watching my grandmother charm the audience, I realized how grateful I was that this had been a regular part of my childhood. As I looked around at the interesting jewelry, metal water bottles and organic cotton clothing on the audience I was glad that these were the type of people I'd been forced to sit with in silence as a kid.
How wonderful I was able to take something like this for granted. That I thought that all families went to poetry readings on the weekend. That it was perfectly normal that by age 9 I could name every type of cheese on a Whole Foods cheese platter and make small talk with college professors, painters, essayists.
Hearing my grandmother's voice, so familiar to me, wash over a group of strangers drove home to me the values these events have instilled in me. For what is a reading if not a validation of our creativity, our hard work and, most of all, our words?
A woman paused to copy down in her notebook a particularly inspiring line from Chase's poem. I didn't know this woman, but we both had a common joy, common inspiration. It may seem overly sentimental, but I think that's a beautiful thing to share with a stranger.
My grandma (or, as I called her, extra-grandma, since she is related by marriage) used to read me stories when I was a kid staying with her and my grandpa during the summers. One fall, to make the separation a little easier, she made a tape of her reading my favorite stories for me to take home. Now, as I read her poems I can hear her voice so clearly. And I am glad for her voice, for my grandfather, father and mother's voice which have helped make mine.