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I did the first day of the 31 day writing challenge back in December but I never did the others. In fairness, I was starting to go through my things to figure out what to keep/throw away/give away for the move. So I’m restarting the whole thing today.

The first challenge is … “Tell me a story.”  In this challenge, I am supposed to pick a book I loved as a child and tell you about it. Like I said, I kind of did that here, but I’m going to start fresh, because using what I wrote previously is cheating.

I loved to read. I still love to read.  Reading is the best escape I know. It helps me relieve stress, puts me in a better mood, and I love to see how other people tell stories.  When I was a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on. We had a club (and a magazine!) called The Weekly Reader and I ordered as many books as I could, with MoC’s approval. My childhood was chaotic and reading was my second defense. My first defense, as I’ve mentioned somewhere on this blog but am too lazy to look up links, was forgetting. I’m a very good forgetter. As a result, I can’t really remember any of the books I read when I was a child.

The one that stands out for me was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. I’ve since learned that E.B. White shunned publicity, hated the spotlight and was terribly hard on himself. I read somewhere – and I forget where (see the previous paragraph regarding the art of forgetting) – that he would remember embarrassing things he did years after the fact and scold himself all over again, feeling the same sense of helpless shame that he had at the time it actually happened. I can relate to that.

But before I knew any of that, I got to know Charlotte the spider. She was smart and creative and she had a strong sense of justice. Even though spiders give me the willies, I kind of wanted to be Charlotte. She befriended Wilbur the pig and tolerated Templeton the rat. And then Wilbur found out he was destined to become bacon. !!  So Charlotte decided to help him out and she would weave messages into her web. I believe Templeton helped somehow (although I seem to remember it was very reluctantly) and all the barn animals got involved. In the end, the farmer was amazed at his smart pig and Wilbur was saved. Of course he was; it was a children’s book.  And because it was a children’s book, the fact that the farmer was a dumbass who believed a pig could dictate messages to a spider went completely over my head.

But also in the end, Charlotte died. (I hope I didn’t spoil the ending!) I remember feeling sad and thinking it wasn’t fair. To this day, deaths or other sad endings in movies or books piss me off. I want to see rainbows and kittens, damn it. But White had a little twist for us. Charlotte had babies! Hundreds and hundreds of baby spiders (and just typing that sentence gives me the willies again). Most of them scurried away to live their lives far away from the barn, but a few stayed behind. One baby spider was named Joy.

That’s really all I remember of the book, but in thinking about this writing prompt, it helped me to remember that one of the things I loved about the book was that it showed me that even in the midst of chaos, I could still control something. Wilbur – with Charlotte’s help – controlled his own fate. I never thought about the message of the book until I started thinking about it for this writing challenge. It probably didn’t occur to me why I loved the book – I just knew that I felt better after reading it.

Today it occurs to me that maybe what reached me on a subconscious level is that everything is connected. Charlotte died, but she left behind her babies. Wilbur’s life was changed forever and even Templeton stopped being an asshole.

It’s probably not going to stop me from killing the next spider I see, though.  Sorry, Charlotte.

P.S.  JR, you might want to click the link for the first book I wrote about for Day 1. I think you might like it.

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