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Oak Brook

A book can make a wonderful gift for a child. When a mother takes her daughter into a bookstore to help her choose her first chapter book, it can be a lovely occasion for both of them.

Unless you’re talking about a mother and daughter that I know. For them, the occasion wasn’t so great. The girl was nine. The mother chose a book, and the daughter complained. Oh, how she hated the looks of it. She told her mother the cover was hideous, the pictures were boring, and the whole thing had too many pages. She griped. She vowed that never, as long as she lived, would she ever read that awful “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

The mother bought the book anyway. She was a wise woman.

They continued their errands through the Oak Brook Shopping Center and after a while, found a bench to sit on. The mother set down her packages, took off her tan coat, and told her daughter to look at that book while they rested.

To the girl’s surprise, the first page was pretty good. The next page made her laugh. Before she knew it, she was engrossed. She read two chapters while she sat on that bench. In three days, she had finished the whole book.

By the time the girl turned 10, she had read the book all the way through again — four more times.

In high school and college, the girl would move on to read other novels, but nothing would ever grab her the way that Charlie book did.

Now, the girl is a teacher. She’s reading that book aloud to her third graders, and they love it, too. Every day after recess, she reads two chapters. She buys 26 copies of the book, one for each child.  Her students are putting on a play about the chocolate factory. They’re dressing in costumes. They’re drawing a giant mural of their favorite scenes.

One evening after school, the girl calls her mother on the phone. She tells her about the fun she’s having with her class. She reminds her that she was the one who started it all, back at Oak Brook, when she bought that book.

But the mother doesn’t remember that book. Or the Oak Brook Shopping Center, or even that her daughter is a teacher.

The daughter listens on the phone as her mother tries to remember. Many things are hard to recall now, the daughter is finding out, even the most important things. Even that lovely, favorite book that she gave to her youngest daughter.

It’s really alright, though, the daughter decides, because the mother has still done something wonderful, hasn’t she?

She once bought her daughter a book she adored. And she never once told the girl to, for Heaven’s sake, read something else instead of that same old chocolate story over and over again. She gave her child a wonderful gift, and she never looked back.

A wise woman knows that loves goes forward. She plants a seedling, and helps it grow. She knows she’ll never sit under the shade of that tree.

The shade is all for me, and my 26 fans of the chocolate factory.

— Frances Peacock

Frances Peacock lives in Indianapolis.  She is a teacher and a freelance writer. She is a four-time attendee of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and a two-time recipient of Honorable Mention in the EBWW Writing Competition. She blogs at essaysfromateacher.com. She’s starting her countdown to next April in Dayton!

Reflections of Erma