One of my most vivid memories from my childhood home on Fuller Street is of the fireplace. Not just the fireplace in general, but a very specific winter’s night when we all piled into our cozy little livingroom and made ourselves comfortable in front of the crackling fire, for we were there to stay for a while. You see, Dad was reading.
The book was Owls in the Family by Farley Mowatt, a Canadian author whose easy going voice is a joy to read aloud. I remember lying on the floor in the semi-dark room, soaking in the warmth and the light from the flames of the fire and inhaling deeply of that pungent scent that accompanies a real wood fire accompanied by the sweeter musky scent of black Darjeeling tea and just maybe a whiff or three of pipe tobacco while Dad read out loud in his deep, rumbly voice of pet gophers and owls and the Saskatoon prairies as seen through the eyes of a young boy with a deep passion for nature.
The only problem was that Dad read much faster with his eyes than he did with his voice, and so his read-aloud technique was punctuated with long, long pauses where he forgot that he was supposed to be reading to us and not just to himself. The worst was when he got so far ahead of himself that he actually turned the page before he kept reading! It was enough to drive a young girl insane with curiosity. Had he skipped anything? Did he miss a sentence? A paragraph? Or… dare I even think such an awful thought… an entire page?
But the pleasure of having Dad read to us far exceeded the annoyance of having to wait once again to find out what happened next, or, heaven forbid, hear the same paragraph twice because Dad forgot he had already read it aloud just a minute ago.
So here I am some thirty years later, with a happy silly smile on my face, because my seven year old has just come into the room with a very definite pronouncement.
“I know what we should read next,” she says, a book held carefully behind her back until it is time for the Grand Reveal. “This one. Owls In The Family.”
And so we have embarked on yet another tale involving owls, this one set in the Canadian praries with their wild and wonderful landscape that involves vast flat expanses dotted by cottonwood groves that drop so much cottonwood fluff in spring that it gives the illusion of snow. I’ve never seen this for myself, you understand, but Mowatt has, and he has such a gift for capturing the very essence of the prairies as seen through a young boy’s eyes that in my heart I believe I’ve been there too.
And now my kids will have been there too, if only in their imagination.