Monday, March 16, 2009

My Antonia

When I was 9, 10, or 11 years old, or maybe older than that, my father actually bought me a birthday present. Not that he never bought me presents before. He always paid for them, but very few times selected them.

For this particular birthday he had wrapped up the presents in brown paper from a grocery sack. No ribbons. Just scotch tape. He wrote something like "To Christine, From Dad" with a permanent sharpie in his usual slanted, angular printing.

I opened them up and found two dark green books from Barnes and Noble. (That was the coolest book store back then!) One was a thick collection of American short stories. The other was a book by Willa Cather. I never read them all the way through. In fact I think I tried to read Cather's novel but gave up. I don't remember if it was My Antonia or Oh, Pioneers!. I did read several of the short stories in the collection he gave me though.

As I grew up in that same bedroom in my home in Los Gatos, CA those books sat there, and sat, and sat, and sat. And they would still be sitting there if my brother Clayton hadn't moved back to our house and moved himself into my old bedroom. But he probably didn't trash the books. They are probably on the bookshelves in his old bedroom. The sort of storage room now where everything that you don't want in your room goes. Those books are probably there right now. Waiting still for me to read them. And if that Willa Cather book is Oh, Pioneers! I will read it, this summer.

I just finished My Antonia and all I can say is "I'm so glad I waited to read it now". It is a wonderful book. An excellent book. An uplifting book. A sad book. A happy book. A book of love. Not a romantic novel, but a book of how real people can love and appreciate others in so many different ways. It was a beautiful book. One of those books that just makes you yearn for those good old days. I'm sure you all who have read it are wondering about my sanity. Good old days? I'm just the kind of person who longs for wide open spaces, for real nature, for the opportunity to take something small and build something big and wonderful from it. I just loved it. Hmmmm. . . . . . sigh.


Marcelo D2 said...

I just wanna tell you that I’ve read that book so many times. It is probably from a different author though, the one that I read till today is from Osmar and Maria, my grandparents. They are my my mom’s parents. Well let me explain better, it’s because my mom’s name is Antonia, and you know how moms are. We have to work hard to understand them. Sometimes I think that my mom’s user guide was written in Japanese. (:
You gave me an idea, I have some books that are sat there for a while now, and I’m going to start to read them. Thanks for posting Christine, I enjoy reading your articles so much.

Sunny said...

I read My Antonia last summer and loved it too. I had never heard of it before I picked it up, and after I finished it I wondered why I hadn't found it on many book list before. Glad you liked it too.

Sonja said...


I don't think I would have appreciated that book before I got married and had kids. That's interesting I guess, since the author never married and had kids. Well, I guess you just appreciate those things more when you have life experiences that help you relate to the characters.

But oh, the land, the love, the forgiveness, the hard honest labor, the fresh air, the fact that Antonia didn't have most of her teeth at the end and she was still loved.


by the way, you're a pretty durn good writer yourself. (:

Code Yellow said...

I read My Antonia about once a year. And sometimes I pick it up and read just the chapter about her boys tumbling out from the cellar into the always makes me happy to be a mom of boys. I heart that book. (I think it's the Colorado girl in me.)

Strawberry Girl said...

This is also one of my most favorite books. I love the intimate portrait of life on a farm with cowboy's and foreign neighbors. I love how they describe Antonia's grandmother and her mushrooms (that the boy's grandmother didn't know what to do with). How they danced... I also liked the book Esmerelda Rising, it too is inspirational...

Strawberry Girl said...

~I meant Esperanza Rising... opps.