Guiding Light

Every weekday morning, spring summer, winter, or autumn, when I got up early enough, I would see my dad on the far corner of the living room couch reading the by lamplight. That image dug deep into my psyche. So much so that it wasn’t until I became an avid reader and scholar did I learn that he had never completed grade school. Even still, he encouraged me to read. On those hot summer days, he even called home to ask my older sister if I had got my reading in. And yes, most days, ready or not, I had.

I developed an almost obsessive love for the written word. Eventually I’d read everything on the small bookshelves in our home, including those not meant for me like, Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid To Ask. I dove into the world of books from the school library, the school classroom book collections, family Friends’ encyclopedias (we couldn’t afford any), Boys and Girls Club library and book club, and eventually the local Public library located in a converted trailer home at the end of the Kmart parking lot. With every book I read, more light came on. My world opened up and blossomed into countless pages of possibilities illuminated by the power of learning. I couldn’t understand how anyone could not love reading. Before my children were born, I read to them. After they were born I read to them. All along the way, I’ve done my damndest to impart to them the joy, power, and liberation gained from the light of the written word.

During the holidays, my oldest son comes home. Home will always be home and there will always be books. Nothing can express what I felt one morning when I rounded the corner and saw him sitting on the far corner of the sofa in the library reading by lamplight. A flood of emotions engulfed me. Yes, I knew that when he would come to visit, he would go through my shelves like a bookstore. I always know that we are going to talk about what we are reading. It’s pretty obvious that we are sharing reading lists and books throughout the year. But there was something about that sight that triggered a thing that made me exhale relief and breath in the spirit of re-memberance. A remembrance that unifies scattered points in ones life and sews up loose ends. A remembrance that goes beyond recall into the realm of conjuring. One that reaches all the way down into your spirit and you can feel your ancestors smile – hear the humming of that Grand Mother by the window of some house beneath lamplight singing a prayer for all her children, born, gone, and yet to come. It’s a full circle spiraling upwards to the dawn. An early dawn, just before the sun comes up and you catch a glimpse of a father on the far end of the sofa reading by lamplight. That guiding light. Keep yours trimmed and burning, whatever it is. Keep your lamp lit. It’ll show somebody the way…

Well mother don’t you stop prayin’
Father keep right on prayin’
Don’t you stop prayin’ for this old world …
Keep your lamps trimmed and burning
Keep your lamps trimmed and burning
Keep your lamps trimmed and burning

2 thoughts on “Guiding Light”

  1. What a gift your father gave you. Neither of my parents were readers, but my mother would pile her babies into a buggy, big kids hanging on,and walk us to the Chicago Public Library branch near our apartment. I would drape a sheet over the kitchen table to create my own reading space and read I did, all through my troubled childhood. Reading with your children was a marvelous gift for the and you.


    1. Yes indeed! A gift that keeps on giving. Thank you so much for your feedback and shared responses. It is such a wondrous revelation when we truly see that we are are living stories…


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