from The History of Great Things by Elizabeth Crane


Didn’t you ever read a book that made you feel… like someone who didn’t even know you understood you? p 137

Reading is what I do. It’s an important part of my identity and passion. I make time for it in my day and throughout the week. I’ve been getting up early each morning to spend time with 20 pagers of Don Quixote and I’m surprised that I am actually making progress. It feels good to sit while the sun streams in; to slip off my responsibilities and into that the rhythm and cadence. The pace of a book written 400 years ago is so different from a more modern work, yet surprisingly relevant and timeless. While I slowly make my way through, I discover that there are these moments of connection and revelation. That indefinable thing that encapsulates what the author is trying to get across to the reader using only those 26 little letters. Intent that’s centuries old realizing its destination.

These connections sprout like weeds in the sidewalk, reaching out, wanting to be noticed. Some sentences just resonate with a crystal water glass pitch— it’s why we read. Crane’s book is one I read as a breather between passages of DQ. It’s a dialogue between mother and daughter as they conjure up and tell each other’s life story.

This passage stuck with me:

When you grow up you will for sure be either a Broadway star, or a veterinarian, or a police, or probably all of those things. Until the following year when you read Harriet the Spy. Then you will for sure be a writer. Or a spy. p 29

When I was little my way of being in the world came from books. I wanted to solve mysteries like Trixie or Jupiter Jones and his crew. But as I got older I saw how to fall in love (Tiger Eyes) and how not to do it (Sweet Valley High) and as I’ve gotten older still I find examples of women both in biography and fiction of the way to live my life. I want to be curious like Ursula in Life After Life and Alma in The Signature of All Things. They are inspiration, mentor and guide all rolled into one.

But The Time Traveler’s Wife… Ahh, Clare Abshire— she is me. We were “born” in the same year, only a week apart. I have held onto this secret desire to be a paper artist. Those scenes where she is dipping her hands in the vats and creating those wings, I turn to them again and again. ‘All my pleasures are homey ones’, is a quote I often invoke. This is a truth in my life; the introvert that I am, I seek solace in these four walls. The worlds in these books are where I have been exposed to other ideas and worldviews. At the same time shared reading experiences have introduced me to other people, other women in my community. At the library and bookstore I’ve met parents whose kids are now grown. These brave souls have done things first and paved the path for me. I certainly have needed their advice and wisdom this past year. And now in some ways the tables have turned. I have come up for air and I am one of those who provide support and comfort, especially for those parents whose children are in the midst of deciding on a college.

As this year has progressed and T has figured out college life, I’ve gotten braver and more confident. We’ve both grown, I see that now. I found this passage of Crane’s to be particularly striking:

‘You want what you want that’s all. And right now you want a screen porch. So you build a screen porch.’ p 204

It’s true, I’m just like this. I read these paragraphs aloud to M and let the words wash over both of us. My voice conjured up this vision. I felt recognition for a woman who knows what she wants, one who has trouble sitting for too long. One who manifests that desire and makes it happen. I am trying to be that person who sees what needs doing, makes the plan and then does the thing. Right now I’m finding inspiration in the words and women (both real and fictional) that surround me. They’ve got so much to teach me.


3 thoughts on “from The History of Great Things by Elizabeth Crane

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s