This week I finally read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I’ve had it on my TBR list for years but somehow or another I never picked it up to read. The other day I saw it hanging out at the library, checked it out, brought it home, and reveled in it for four days. What a wonderful story it is!
Although my childhood was immensely more privileged than Francie’s, I saw in her character much of my own love of books and words and reading as well as my enjoyment in simple pleasures. The simple pleasure game* is one of my favorites to play with myself.
Here are a few quotes from this lovely book:
“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.”
“Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere – be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”
“People always think that happiness is a faraway thing,” thought Francie, “something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains – a cup of strong hot coffee when you’re blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you’re alone – just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.”
*The simple pleasure game is just finding pleasure in the little things of life: like a hot cup of tea on a cold day or a iced coffee on a hot one; the smell of newly mown grass; stopping to smell a flower; watching a bird in a tree; putting your feet in a river; eating one piece of good chocolate; hearing your favorite sonata on the radio; putting your hands in the warm earth as you plant the first plants of the year; and so forth. It’s making every moment count and finding the little pleasures that God brings every single day if only you open your eyes to them.