My mother sent me a painted portrait one day of a grandmother pouring tea for a little girl in a storybook setting and likened it to Mrs. Moore. Like opening the cover of a well known book, it took me back not just to afternoons in the blue house on the hill, but to a single moment:
Mrs. Moore took me by the hand one day – no, the wrist — in the living room on Panorama Drive, where she had stood dumbfounded near the velvet green sofa, wheatfield-deep in the blue shag rug, momentarily paralyzed to realize that I, a 12-year-old bookworm of an only child, had never read Little Women. That was the crime of the century that had us flying through the dining room – her 1940s glamour shot on the end table, burgundy jacket and full Hollywood “red lip,” and the goblets waiting for dinner – down the hallway, dark with indoors-ness, into Mr. Moore’s room with the twin captain’s beds and the little library in the back, wrapped in white-paned windows like a sun-porch in Vermont. And that’s where her Robbie-race stopped and my wrist dropped like a billy club. Her little white sandals had hustled at almost a sauntering pace; top speed. Her focus had been forward, and my following sure. I was going wherever she led. And where she led was here, to one particular shelf about mid high, and one particular book, four or five in from the left; one finger atop the spine, she tilted it out top first into her hand. There in the glass-muted sunbeams with the green linen book-smelling book, held lightly, she turned back to me and said, “little girls like you should be reading Little Women.”
So I did.
Alcott wasn’t my favorite, but the moment was – where I learned that there are women, more than just my equally miraculous mother, who will stand there with conviction and urgency and drag you towards discovery and tell you in sunbeams that there are things you should be doing, and that you can look at them while they say these things, and learn to love.
But she didn’t make tea — she made toast at midnight and woke me to ask if I wanted some.