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 to our future, I thought that Miss Read would make a lovely companion for me. For 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.
Miss Read in November
Miss Read’s November sees the arrival of cooler fall weather. Her month is filled with planning for her school’s 100th celebration, a December tea party following the performance of historical vignettes by her students. Her mind is also on her school’s future. As my school prepares to close out celebrations of our 250th year, the idea of the future has hold of me as well. This shared fascination with the passage of time joins Miss Read and I together.
In at least one respect, as the mama of a 16 year old high school junior, the notion of the future always seems to be at hand. There’s talk of college and standardized tests and planning, planning, planning. The future looms large and can easily consume us. In the midst of this chatter, it’s easy to lose sense of the moment. There are times when I look at my son and struggle to reconcile the tall and strong young man with the chubby cheeked toddler and little boy whom he once was. When he was first born, a friend told me that the nights were long but the years passed quickly. These days, that truth is more apparent than ever. I do my best to live in the moment, aware how quickly it will pass us by.
Professionally, time spent in the company of 6th and 7th graders is an all-together different reminder of the passage of time. These kids do live in the moment, some times blissfully unaware of a future as close at hand as tomorrow. At other times, their eye is on the prize of independence and freedom of high school and beyond. They can be silly and wise in practically the same moment. They are changing rapidly, a fact about which they sometimes seem blissfully unaware. Practically overnight, their bodies and voices change, limbs grow longer, and brains grow more sophisticated. The theme of middle school is persistent change.
Miss Read and I live our lives in the company of children and we genuinely like the work. I think that our shared fondness for children and our similar sense of humor is why I like these books so much. They are a ready companion whenever I need it.