Actually, Love

Blowin’ In: Actually, Love
By Susan Mangan

“It does not do
to dwell on dreams and forget
to live.”
Albus Dumbledore, J.K. Rowling

My youngest is a man of few words and many unspoken ideas. When he does decide to share his thoughts, they are of value. In some instances, his sage words take my breath away.

Shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve, my youngest and I began to talk, not about his future, but the goals and aspirations of others. He explained that when a person discovers that one thing that actually causes his or her heart to hurt, that is passion; that is the reason for waking up each day.

According to my young druid, that passion is not always for another human. It is that often elusive “something” which your heart cannot live without. My son referenced my love for literature as his primary example. Indeed, the seeming truth that emits out of the mouths of babes.

My son, however, is obviously not a mother, so he does not understand how the cry of a child or the howl of a beloved pet can cause one to move from a place of dreams to immediate action in a millisecond. In time, he may learn. Until then, let him think that my defining act, my reason for breathing, is the creation and discovery of words. My motivation is actually love.

A Mother’s Love
Throughout the years, my greatest acts as a mother do involve those passions that cause my heart to tremble. As my youngest explained, knowledge and literature always seem to entwine the moment.

I can still feel the scramble of my three children clambering for space on my lap, near the curl of my hair, close to my heart, as we settled in for bedtime stories. We read their favorite stories for hours: Curious George at the candy factory, Madeline and her schoolmates, the broom that carried a witch, a cat, and a dog, and the ethereal tale of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, who sailed off one night in a wooden shoe.

This memory of my children – the sound of their sighs, the smell of their milky breath, the trusting weight of their tired bodies, makes my heart hurt. This ritual of nighttime reading seemed to last for hours, but in the great expanse of time was over in a fleeting second.

Now, such episodes of literary reckoning are spare and last a mere moment. Bedtime reading has been supplanted with SnapChat and Netflix. My heart hurts, but not in a good way. I comfort myself with the knowledge that those hours spent reading and the joy of time spent with a book are lying dormant in my children’s hearts and are just waiting for that moment of quiet stillness to manifest.

At times, this literary epiphany rises not from the still depths of quietude, but out of the din of a city filled with traffic, diverse people, bustling shops, and grand architecture; a place where charm, history, and magic marry in a most exquisite coupling. For my daughter, this place was London.

Study Abroad
Her journey to study abroad was a quest of self-discovery, a search for dreams, the rediscovery of her heartbeat. Interestingly, my daughter’s odyssey evolved from a passion for literature.
As a young child, my only girl loved the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. A curious three-year-old, she wanted know where Laura lived and if she could see her. I explained, as her heart broke, that Laura lived with the angels, but we could always listen to and read her stories.

As a schoolgirl, the adventures of Harry Potter became her literary obsession. She once told me that the books brought her to magical places that she wished to return to over and over again. In truth, she has.

Having read the entire series many times as a child, the tales of Hogwarts spoke to my now adult daughter through her Air Pods as she traveled across London, navigating the Tube like a native. She visited Platform 9¾ King’s Cross, and journeyed to Edinburgh, Scotland and the places that inspired J.K. Rowling to create her iconic tales.

When I visited Katie in London, I brought her to one of my favorite literary haunts, The Charles Dickens Home and Museum in Bloomsbury. A bit unsure of her taste for Victorian literature, she didn’t know if she would be interested.

In my mother’s heart, I knew Katie would be enchanted by this special place. After all, I have spent years waxing poetic about the Christmas Carol to my children.

Decorated in fragrantly fresh Christmas greens, our visit to the museum did not disappoint. This is my second visit to Charles Dickens’ home with two out of my three children. The magic is real.

As Katie and I gazed into the mirror in Charles Dickens’ parlor, I could feel his creative presence. I knew that literature is not just the stuff of dreams, but impacts our personal journeys, the unique calling of our own realities. More than ever, I felt encouraged to holdfast to my passion for literature.

I renewed my commitment to share my experiences with others through words and teaching.  Above all, I felt such privilege to gaze into a mirror that allowed my daughter and I to see into the past, while beholding a present moment that will in the future become a treasured memory.  

I suppose my young sage was correct. My passion for literature has always defined my life. In time, the trust that I put into words will inspire and comfort those for whom my heart aches with unparalleled joy, and at times, unbearable pain, but actually and always with love: my greatest inspiration – my children.

*Susan holds a Master’s Degree in English from John Carroll University and a Master’s Degree in Education from Baldwin-Wallace University. She may be contacted at [email protected].

Katie & Charles
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