Friday Christmas Eve, I sit at a tamalada with two little girls who share their book of children's poetry with me. One is a twelve-year-old 6th grader, the other is just seven. I have known their mother since she was six months old, so I have a special love for these little girls, sabes?
These little girls can read! I tell you. And not just the words. Especially the older one. Veronica, she can read, explain, listen, interpret. What joy to listen as these kids use poetry.
A peanut. A railroad track. A train comes. Toot toot. Peanut butter. Veronica reads the words assiduously. She laughs when she springs the surprise ending, with a big warm smile and sparkly eyes. We chat about the peanut just ambling along the railroad tracks on a sunny day. Do a gesture with your fingers. Then make the horn sound like a horn, "toot! toot!" Veronica now does an oral interpretation of the poem. She pantomimes the ambling gait of a carefree peanut, two parallel fingers suggest the railroad track, does a great toot! toot!, and laughs the surpise, almost rising from her seat, enjoying the drama she's pulled off the page.
She reads another one, a nagging mommy poem. She gets the voices just right, the warnings, the scolds, the silliness that adults threaten kids with, "That's the last time I tell you," goes the poem, goes the mom, goes the dad, and of course, it won't be the last time they have to tell her. Veronica shudders and smiles at the same time, the poem keeping it all in perspective.
Veronica's little sister takes the book. More stolidly but just as eloquently, Ari reads. And does the interp, too. She loves the poems, she loves the language. These girls love reading. They have a sense of audience, an ear for language. Dang, it doesn't get much better than this, I think, then it does.
Veronica comes back from wherever she's wandered off to, and we read a Frost poem together. "And I, I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference." Veronica reads the stanza with its difficult words, and the famous line. I look at her and tell her, "Veronica, one day this will make sense to you, the choices you made, the paths you will choose to follow." Little Veronica puts on a serious mien and nods assent.
Thank you, Veronica and Arianna, for making that Friday the best one of the year. Always a bit of a cynic when I wish gente a happy new year, this year I know for sure it is, in fact, a happy new year.
Michael V. Sedano