Happy Valentines Readers! Today Practice Mentor Grace has another Recommended Read to share from our anthology A Little, Aloud With Love.
Love stories take time to form, and while we’re waiting for our own to start to make sense, I think we often take an interest in what we observe of those around us. Our own love stories will always be different; personal to us, and yet as time goes on we build up something of a bank of stories which perhaps help us to know what love might be like, or what shape it might take.
In Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, young Salamanca is particularly in need of this, her own mother having left with little warning some months before, leaving both her father and herself bewildered as to where she might have gone. Now in the reassuring company of her grandparents, Salamanca is on a journey to Idaho to try and track her mother down. The trip allows her to witness the intimate detail of her grandparents’ relationship with each other, as well as providing the prompt for the retelling of the story of how that relationship first began.
Gram had returned Gramps’ proposal with her own cunning question: ‘do you have a dog?’ Hearing that he does, Gram had pursued the thought, asking what tended to happen when Gramps came through the door at night. Gramps described his response to the dog’s unfailing excitement and affection:
He did not like to admit it, but he said, ‘I take her in my lap and pet her till she calms down, and sometimes I sing her a song. You’re making me feel foolish,’ he said to Gram.
I don’t mean to,’ she said. ‘You’ve told me all I need to know. I figure if you treat a dog that good, you’ll treat me better. I figure if that old beagle Sadie loves you so much, I’ll probably love you better. Yes, I’ll marry you.’
Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons
It is another kind of love that wins Gram’s trust. Not flattering words, or gifts, or fanciful offers of a future. Not a grand romantic gesture, or the promise of adventure. But simply the capacity to be able to look out for another being, to show them care, to take pleasure in their company.
Walk Two Moons is ostensibly a children’s book, but it contains some beautifully simple moments of insight that any one of us might feel better for having read. Yet the decision that Gram makes above reminds me of another very serious decision that a couple have to make in another more sober piece in A Little, Aloud with Love.
In Stanley Middleton’s Valley of Decision, Mary has been having an affair whilst working away in America, but returns home to face her husband. Their first conversation as they encounter one another again is marked neither by angry demands nor the need for retribution, but by painful concern for the suffering that has been caused, which both husband and wife are reluctant even to speak of.
‘You must have …?’ she faltered.
‘In the end. Yes. I realized something was seriously wrong.’
‘I’m sorry. It was awful, David.’ She groped outwards. She was crying, soundlessly.
‘Come back to me, Mary,’ he said, off balance.
The imperative passed without effect. He had decided that she was not going to answer, that he must toss his cap again into the fearful ring, when she spoke.
‘Do you mean that?’
He did not know; on his dizzy distress he had no landmarks except for this central pointer: he must take her.
Stanley Middleton, Valley of Decision
Those inner imperatives, those decisions to say yes, give us the power to go on into the future, in spite of our fears and the things we may have suffered. Whether you’re looking ahead or looking back and remembering this Valentines’ Day, do try out the stories in this wonderful collection, about fellow human beings doing their best in a whole range of circumstances to make their lives work.
If you’d like to celebrate your love every day this year, why not share the stories and poems from A Little, Aloud With Love with your loved one.
A Little, Aloud with Love
Buy your copy now from The Reader.