Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sitting at His Feet

Last night we sat at the feet of my father-in-law. I mean that quite literally—Ryan and I sat beside each other on the floor with our backs against the uneven spines on the bookcase while his dad read to us.

It was past midnight. Cimorene was asleep downstairs, and Ryan and I were enjoying the freedom of just wandering around the house (those who are parents will understand the reluctance to go to bed and end those quiet moments after the child is asleep; even though you’re exhausted, you feel like your own person for awhile).

We followed Dad into the study, talking, and I started glancing through the books on his shelf. A casual mention of a title was all it took.

“Have you ever read Thurber? No? Well, you’ll have to read this one. Here, let me find a really good one.”

Thus it began. We sat at his feet as he read to us from “Fables for Our Time.” We learned about a moth who wants to fly to a star, and so he doesn’t get burned flying around lamps like the rest of his family. Another was about a man who sees a unicorn, and his wife plots to have him committed, but when the police and psychiatrist come, they end up taking her instead, because the man denies having seen it, and so he lives happily ever after.

After one of the stories, I glanced up at the books behind me and said, “Word Studies? What’s that one?”

That’s when the real teaching started.

My father-in-law is a teacher. He has a Doctorate of Education degree, and he has taught college-level religion courses for the last 30 years.

Word Studies turned out to be a study on the New Testament, with the original Greek next to the King James text. Dad flipped to a favorite section and showed us how the book worked, flipping to the back to show us the longer translation for a passage which made much more sense in Greek than in the King James translation. He started talking about how that related to this passage, and that related to this…

The result was that I felt alive, in a way I hadn’t since I left school a month ago. I’ve gotten bogged down in the last few weeks with diapers, the fact that I haven’t slept, and my daughter’s newly developed separation anxiety. I’ve been feeling grey and lost; I wasn’t accomplishing anything, I wasn’t moving forward in any way, I was simply existing—and in my in-law’s basement, no less.

But sitting at the feet of my father-in-law made me realize what a great chance I have these couple months while we’re in limbo. Ryan’s dad, as well as having a wealth of knowledge in his mind, has an enormous library, both of which he’s eager to share. I’ve now started reading At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald, as well as that collection of James Thurber’s stories. I should probably pick up some Dickens along the way (I’ve never actually read any), and I’m determined to finally read a Steinbeck (probably Travels With Charley; I’ve heard it’s not too depressing. My father-in-law also recommended Sweet Thursday).

I’m plotting ways to get Dad talking—I need to come up with some thought-provoking questions—and I’m feeling much less worried about the next couple months. Even if I still haven’t slept.


  1. Beautiful. Can't believe you've never read George did I miss passing that one on to you? I love East of Eden...some feel it is depressing but I see it as a book on life filled with hope and promise...

    Love you!

  2. It is so essential to keep your mind alive when there isn't the discipline of class to motive you any more (life after graduation). I too had never read Dickens until after school (besides The Christmas Carol). Since then I've read Tale of Two Cities, Little Dorrit, and Hard Times. Steinbeck is also on my list. I think I'm going to read East of Eden. Also, I find it helps to assume that I'm going to have to write an essay about the books I'm reading . . . it helps me to probe more instead of just passively reading. I just finished The Catcher in the Rye, and now I'm reading Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil to help formulate a thesis that I'm working on about Holden. It keeps my mind active and reminds me that I do love research and l love to learn.

  3. Mom--I know, I can't believe I never read MacDonald either. And when we watched pieces of East of Eden in one of my classes last year, I thought of you, because I knew you loved that one.
    Karli--I totally agree about keeping your mind alive. I've been struggling with that, but I think I'm picking it back up a little. I like your idea of reading with the thought of writing an essay; I'll have to try that.

  4. Wow....sounds like a fun/awesome fil! :):)


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