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Friday, January 9, 2009

Thank you Uncle Charlie

In the summer of my twelfth year I spent July and August with my grandparents in Iowa. I was a gangly awkward twelve. A too tall girl with straight brown hair and a stoop to my shoulders that my mother was determined to poke out of me. (Literally, she would walk up behind me and with her middle knuckle jab me in the back.) I was uncomfortable in my maturing body and unsure of my growing mind.

My uncle came to my grandparents to visit for a week. Just ten years older than me he seemed so very grown up. He was going to college at the time and was the strangest character in my family of strange characters. Uncle Charlie was flamboyant and loud. He took acting classes and sang classical music. He played the piano beautifully and loved to tickle me until I would nearly pee my pants. I loved him, I believe now he tolerated me. I was after all a pain-in-the-behind twelve-year-old niece to his then oh-so-very-mature 22-year-old man.

The week he came to visit there was a one-man play just opening. He got us tickets. Just for the two of us. Thinking back I am sure Grandma probably made him. (See he wasn’t so old that he still didn’t have to take orders from mom.) Grandma took me shopping and I got a pretty white dress with spaghetti straps and sandals with heals. I stood up straight for the first time since my horrible growing spurt just six months earlier.

We went to dinner first and I ordered from the real menu (as opposed to the Kid’s Menu). Little breaded shrimp and a steak and a baked potato, oh to feel so grown up. Then we walked the block and a half to the fancy old theater in downtown Dubuque. I hadn’t really cared about what we were seeing, just that something exciting was happening in a boring Iowa summer. We took our seats and the house lights went down and for the next ninety minutes I was enraptured. The play was one actor on stage as Mark Twain. He talked about life with wit and a bit of sarcasm, read from various pieces of literature I had never before been exposed to and opened my mind to telling tales. It was wonderful.

I asked to be taken to the library the next day. I checked out several Twain books. Something so different, to be whisked away by words. And I read, and I read, and I read. A love of literature burned in me suddenly. From that moment on there has always been a book on my nightstand. I am always reading something. And from that love of reading has grown the need to write and share my own views and stories.

Thank you Uncle Charlie.

1 comment:

Don said...

A very nice story. Sometimes a little act of kindness and thoughtfulness is transformative. (And inspiring. Thanks for sharing.)