In the mid 1970’s, my family lived across the street from a lovely lady named Vivian. Vivian was the quintessential southern homemaker and our established bible authority for our neighborhood. I adored her. She hired me as a teenager to clean, dust, and help her can preserves. Lord knows I did not really care for the work, but I loved listening to her converse. Later she introduced me to different authors as she had stacks of books she would be reading. She read everything she could get her hands on. She had a television, but I think it was only for watching Walter Cronkite for news.
After I grew up I began sharing books with her. She had a habit of keeping them forever. There was one particular book I wanted back so I went to her house to get it. I noticed a slip of paper about halfway through the book where she was taking meticulously detailed notes on what she was reading and I asked her, “Are you done with it?” She said, “No but it is ok if you want to take it. I have so many things I can read,” as she and I looked over at her rather large piles of books, newspapers, and magazines in the corner of the room. I took the book, but felt some reservation for taking it.
In later years when Vivian’s health was declining, I decided to go see her. We had a wonderful time. I admired her integrity and old-fashioned pleasures. She taught me how to read a book slow and savor every moment of it. To this day I can not forget what value she brought to my life.
I am aware that I am afforded the luxury of reading on Kindle and emails at my fingertips now, but Vivian showed me the way to study and allow time alone in a book to transform you. For that I forever grateful. There was no email between us after I moved away from Alabama. There was only the mail box. It could only be through letter writing we would keep in touch. The calming and beautiful way of orchestrating your life as she did will forever remind me of a vintage time. So when I get down on myself about how slow it is for me to read or write in my present time frame, I capture the memory in my mind sitting with Vivian on the veranda scoping through piles of books without a care in the world. I hear her whispering to me, “Let’s forget about the housework and go sit down a spell and have a cup of tea and read together.” Yes, Miss Vivian let us just go do that.