Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Baby Likes to Rock

I'm not talking about a rocking chair. And I'm not talking about Shawn either.

I think Emeline prefers classic rock over classic literature.

But let's go back to the beginning.

The other day, as I drove home from the grocery store, I caught the tail end of The Diane Rehm Show on NPR. One of the guests hadn't been speaking very long when two little words made me catch my breath: Hester Prynne. This catching of the breath; it was audible. My heart went pitter-pat as I realized I was sitting in on a literary discussion. I turned up the volume. I actually smiled (!) because there in my car, with a trunk full of groceries, I was listening in on people discussing The Scarlet Letter. Don't you just love public radio?!

Immediately I was transported back to high school. I almost can't remember the 16-year-old version of myself, but I remember our teacher, Mr. Scobee, I remember the classroom, I remember the school was under construction that year, and I remember watching two guys with a clear hose clean out the Port-a-John that I could, regrettably, see from the classroom window. A clear hose. Seriously? Oh the events that make indelible marks on our memories. But I digress.

**spoiler alert!**

I remember knowing in my gut after reading the first, or at least the first few chapters, that Arthur Dimmesdale was Pearl's father. I knew it! And I remember being sort of proud of myself. No one in the class let on they thought the same. But there's a good chance no one in the class really cared. (Remember people, this was in the day before Wikipedia and the plots of classic literature weren't normally discussed in the hallways.)

But Diane Rehm and guests weren't focusing on the beginning of the story. They were retelling the dramatic ending on the scaffold where Hester and her daughter where being publicly shamed for Hester's act of adultery.

I could see it all in my mind's eye. Pearl, the small child, standing near her mother. Hester looking off into the distance, standing with dignity despite the scarlet "A" sewn onto her dress; a symbol clearly visible to the townspeople below who relished the fact. Off to the right I saw Arthur Dimmesdale slouching under the weight of his secret. As a gentle wind rustled Hester's hair and quieted all who gathered below, Dimmesdale removed his shirt revealing a jaw-dropping scarlet "A" on the skin of his chest.

I was lost in thoughts of legalism, repentance, forgiveness, guilt, and shame; themes Nathaniel Hawthorne explored over a hundred and fifty years ago; matters that can potentially end in beauty, but so often result in the toxic breakdown of relationships.

When from the back seat the wee bairn emitted the most frustrated, bored, mom-do-we-really-have-to-listen-to-this? sort of groan-cry.

A little piece of me died.

Another little piece of me changed the channel.

And wouldn't you know the controlled chaos of electric guitars and drums lulled my agitated baby to sleep?


Perhaps discussions of classic literature are better left for those older than six months. Surely my baby will enjoy them someday. Surely.

This is what I keep telling myself.


  1. ahhhh, mr. scobee. how i miss your sarcasm and wit. (are you frustrated that that's all i have to say to that post?) :)

  2. For the record I spend a fair amount of time listening to Q95 in the car, as well, and I have it on good authority that her grandfather does when he's in town. What can we say?

    "Good luck TO you... and may the force with EACH... and every one of you!"

  3. "You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll stand up and cheer!"

  4. Ok, then....back to my mundane life....

  5. I just remember him always calling me Mr. Whitehead and reminding me how I failed to impress him as much as the venerable sibling that went before me. (One of those statements is true).

    Good memories.

  6. My guess is the Mr. Whitehead part. I know you tore it up in Literature class (Mr. Lilly scholar!!)!

  7. Ooooohhhh!!! I LOVE to hear your thoughts!! And why can't I remember any of the book??? Should I go back and read it???

  8. That's a good question Sadee. Maybe check it out from your local library and give it a go on your next road trip?

  9. At least you know Eme has good taste in music. When she has developed her musical palate a little more I will introduce her to some of my favorites from Foreigner, Journey, and Queen.