Home from school and finished with my chores at last, I curled up in our old pine rocker while Mama worked in the kitchen. My frilly yellow afghan warmed me as the heavenly scent of wood burning nearby in the hearth wafted into my nostrils. There was no better way to spend an afternoon than with my favorite pastime. Neither wild horses nor an army of strong soldiers could pull me away. We didn’t have much money, but I always borrowed or begged to feed my voracious appetite. No one minded that I savored so many hours alone in my own little world. Not Mama or the preacher or any of my friends, though they thought me odd. No one except Father.
Mama and I often sat together and whiled the hours away while Father worked at the factory. When I was eight I asked Mama, “Why won’t Father allow me to read?”
“He loves you very much, April,” she said with a smile.
“I know, but that doesn’t answer my question.”
Mama wore a pained look on her face. I remember it distinctly. “Oh sweetie, he had a hard life. His parents died at a young age, and he had to quit school and work every day to support his younger brothers and sisters. It embarrasses him that he can’t read like we can. He’s a very hard worker and a good man. He just can’t stand to see someone doing something he can’t.”
“But Mama, he could learn to read. You could teach him.” I felt I would come out of my skin with hope. Surely he would agree. How could I read in secret all of my life?
Tears pooled in Mama’s eyes. “We have to wait until he’s ready, dear. I have suggested it, but his pride won’t allow it right now. He thinks it’s too late, that he’s too old.”
“Oh, Mama, you’re never too old to travel to another land, to learn about other people and places, to feel and smell and hear and see so many things just through pages in a book!” My heart nearly broke for my father and for me.
“Yes, I know,” Mama said, patting me on the knee. “You’re right. I pray for the day we can sit and read together, all of us. You pray, too, and one day I know God will answer in His own time.”
Shaking my head to rid it of the memory, I glanced at the clock. Only a few more minutes! Father would be home from work soon, and I couldn’t let him catch me in the act. I feared I would not reach my next birthday with all limbs intact if he should see me reading. I set the book down, folded the afghan, and knelt at the foot of the rocker.
“Lord, it’s April again. I hope you don’t tire of me asking the same thing over and over again. I just want to help Father. Please help him learn to read your Word instead of counting on others to tell him what it says. I want him to enjoy himself with a story book or novel or newspaper like I do. It would mean so much to me. Amen.”
Just then the door slammed and Father appeared in the doorway. I scurried to a standing position and welcomed him home, hoping he couldn’t see the flush I knew covered my cheeks.
During dinner, Mama asked, “So what would both of you like to do tonight?”
Father looked at Mama, then me. “I think April should decide. What should we do, pumpkin?”
Dear Lord, help me. I looked up and spoke with more confidence than I felt. “I just started a new book today. Maybe you and Mama would like to hear about it.”
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