Monday, February 15, 2016

12 Months of Miss Read: January

The backstory: At the start of 2016, I pulled out my very favorite Miss Read book, Village Centenary.  The novel is structured in months and each chapter explores a month in the year of a village school that is celebrating its 100th anniversary.  This year, my own school is celebrating its 250th anniversary and as we think of our past and look toward our future, I thought that Miss Read would once-again make a lovely companion for me.  Each month of 2016, I plan to read Miss Read’s reflection on the month.  

Miss Read is a pseudonym for Dora Jessie Saint, an English author who wrote between 1955 and 1996.  Her novels were tales of every day life in small English towns.  Village Centenary is set in Fair Acre, an imaginary Cotswold community.  As is the case in nearly all of the Fair Acre novels, the novel is written in the first person and it is through our narrator, school teacher Miss Read, that the story unfolds.

January with Miss Read
Village Centenary starts in January and so did my project, though it’s taken me to the month of February to finish my writing about January.  Miss Read’s month of January unfolds rather like my own, as she puts her holidays behind her and prepares for a the blustery cold first month of the year.  Part of her mind is directed toward thinking about her school’s 100th year, but most of Miss Read’s days are filled with the details of daily existence: keeping children busy and happy when they are stuck indoors; the moods of her irritable school cleaner, Mrs. Pringle; the wry observations of her school handyman, Mr. Willet.

Our first day back at school in 2016 featured an all-school photo, as we prepared to celebrate our 250th year.  Like many milestones, this one mostly lives in our subconscious, as the Winter school days unfolded in the typical fashion.  At school, January is a month when some serious schoolwork gets done.  There are occasional 3 day weekends on the horizon but we’ve 10 weeks between the January return-to-school and the arrival of Spring Break and by now the students have adjusted to the pace of academic expectations.

My January is filled with long days that begin in the dark and end with post-wrestling practice drives home in the dark twilight.  Like Miss Read, I turn my face to the sunlight when it shines, even if it’s a cold sunshine.  I wrap up in cardigans and set out scraps of bread for the animals who spend Winter in my back yard.  I mark the days on my calendar, aware that each week brings a few extra minutes of the sunlight that I crave in the Winter months.  I also pause to enjoy the stark beauty of Winter, aware that it is the months of Winter that make the colors of Spring and Summer so lovely.

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