On a Hot Summer Afternoon


She stood before her colleagues with little intrepidness and appeared almost childlike as she righted her notebook, upside down to right side up, and searched for where to begin. Her audience, scholars in their own right, had prepared their briefs diligently and eagerly awaited her words.

They would not be an easy sell. Capturing the imagination and attention of this group would challenge the best of orators. But she had done her homework and prepared copious notes and as I sat, I knew something special was about to befall us; she was ready to fly.

Her mother, always her biggest fan, sat in the rear of the room; and I watched her, too. Her smile was curt. Her eyes held many emotions; and as her daughter spoke she nervously beamed with pride; but there was something else; a slight melancholy was obvious to me. Before her eyes, her daughter was taking a great leap, a step from crayons to perfume. Reluctantly, she was watching her go. The raring years of children are filled with countless steps toward independence. But this moment was like no other.

I read her mother's thoughts. They were written on her sleeve. "She's moving on; and there's no telling what this girl can do."

Well, that's what life is all about. And love is about letting go. And there, right before her mother's eyes, Camille Rivett sprouted wings and began to fly.

Camille, who would turn 6 in two weeks, stared confidently at her audience and began to speak. She was dressed to the "nines." She wore a pink swim suit. This was a special moment in time filled with imagery and symbolism, a metamorphosis. I learned a long time ago, if you pay attention to life you often witness life as it unfolds. Hurry!

Camille is a card-carrying member of the Book Worms, a new book club in La Cañada. It's for neighborhood kids. Megan Decker, Sam Quiring, Kate Decker, Simone Puglia, Cassy Quiring, Paige Rivett, Sabine Puglia and Camille Rivett meet once a week to discuss their chosen book.

Camille had chosen Meet Kirsten, an American Girl, by Janet Shaw, part of the American Girl collection. She told of Kirsten Larsen's adventure, coming to America from Sweden and of her struggle to learn the true meaning of home. Kirsten was a pioneer girl of great strength and spirit. I guess, in those days, that's the way they built them.

That afternoon I began to see a connection between the strength and spirit of Kirsten, the heroine of the book, and Camille Rivett. I have always believed we are initially attracted to that which is already present in us. And, as a student of cause and effect, I doubted if I would ever look at Camille in the same light again. She had come into her own simply by standing up. The power of reading and where it can take you never ceases to amaze me.

The Book Worms group is the vision of a bunch of La Cañada neighborhood moms. The kids get together once a week and discuss the characters, plot, and their likes and dislikes of the book. In addition to presenting their findings to the club, they keep a journal of their readings and write a synopsis of the various chapters. Molly Quiring has been the group's facilitator. Believe me, she has the patience of Job.

As a kid, I remember being an avid reader. My sophomore year English teacher, Brother Raymond Landry, introduced me to the world of literature. Through Brother Raymond's tutelage I've traveled to distant lands and met the famous saints and sinners, poets, artists, kings, and queens, old stars and hopeful beginners. And as I opened books throughout the years, life has happened because I turned the pages. I still see those Birches (Robert Frost) and some boy swinging in them, which Brother Raymond always talked about.

Camille finished her review and, with a giggle, she took her place with the membership. The kids ensured she didn't stand alone as they were respectful, attentive and encouraging. Her mom, true to her instincts and resisting any parental intervention, sat speechless and in awe at her daughter's presentation.

And I sat back and watched these children with wet bathing suits, matted hair, and dirty feet venture beyond reading and delve into a myriad of life skills; all on this hot summer afternoon.

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