I’m always amazed by the kinds of things I remember. Most of the time, I can’t remember the big picture – I just remember one thing that stuck in my mind.
I don’t remember reading Aesop’s Fables the whole way through with grandma, but I remember the Crow and the Fox and Swiss Cheese falling out of a tree.
I can’t remember what we were doing one day when my family walked down the Pump Station lane, but I remember a single Indian Paintbrush growing in the grass.
I remember leaving a ring on the bathroom sink somewhere in Texas, crying because I was six, and going back with mom to find someone had taken it.
I remember reading about Kaya, the Nez Perce American Girl, putting moss in her moccasins; I took a walk to the alfalfa field behind my house, stuffed my moccasins, and laid down in the field at the start of a storm because the start of rain is one of my favorite feelings.
But I’m always amazed how I can read a whole section of a textbook, an entire story, even a research paper – and only remember a silly, fun fact. Sometimes, only a few sentences out of hundreds stick in my mind.
I still remember Stacey is the brother’s name in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, but I read the book when I was 10 and completely forget what it was about.
I remember the cover of The Giver, and of A Wrinkle in Time, and I completely forget the stories.
I remember the pictures I pained in my head of the Trolls’ cave door when Gandalf opened it, but I hardly remember the story.
I remember the moment Ned sees the one-eyed cat in the book One-Eyed Cat, and that’s all I remember.
I remember My Side of the Mountain and how badly I wanted to live with hawks or in a tree.
I can see the stallions and geldings in my head from the countless Marguerite Henry horse books, stories of Chincoteague wild horses, and other equestrian classics that I would sit under the library skylights and read during free hours in Mr. J’s library.
Okay, enough reminiscing…
The story that stands out time and time again, after all these years, I finally realize is a lesson. I never saw it as a lesson. At the time, I was 11, I thought this story was about how stupid raccoons are. Instead, it’s about how stupid people can be.
The story part I remember is from the book Where the Red Ferns Grow. That is probably the first time in my life I can remember my entire class at Valley crying together: Mrs. Koza, the assistant Mrs. Dempsey, and all 20 or so of us 5th graders, boys and girls, crying equally. I forget who was the first one to cry, but it was like flood gates opening. In fact, it might have been Mrs. Koza reading the part out loud when…well, I won’t give that away. That’s near the end, when we learn where the red fern grows.
The only parts I remember of the story is the end, the section when I learned what “entrails” are and cried because of how I learned it, and the raccoon.
The boy in the story comes across a trap in the woods. It’s a log with holes drilled in it. Some cruel trapper put a shiny object inside, drove nails around the holes, and left it be. It was to catch raccoons – they would want the object, then not let go to get their hands out even if the hunter was coming along to club them to death.
I thought it was about how raccoons like shiny things and are dumb. And that’s a little true. But it’s more about how cruel humans are, and how fickle animals and people alike can be. How shiny things blind us. In some ways, the passage is talking about the idea of “sin”.
So you can imagine how a 5th grader latched on to that scene playing in her head, of a raccoon struggling in a log for a cheap, worthless, shiny scrap, maybe starving for some time, and a silly hunter coming along, clubbing it, throwing out the mess and keeping the tail or the skin or something foolish, and letting it happen all over again.
Hunting for weaknesses.
Do you have shiny weaknesses in your life?