The Gift - A Short Story

Kavika
03/06/17 06:41:01PM
@kavika

With all the means of communication and entertainment available to us today reading a book seems to have taken a back seat to TV, movies and the social media outlets.

I still love to read a book, not on a kindle but a real book made of paper.

Perhaps I'm just old and living in the past. Well, somethings about the past aren't that bad, in fact they are darn good.

Let's go back in time to the 1940's and set the stage. I was born and raised in a small town in northern Minnesota. There was no tv, no social media, no computers, a few people had radios, we did not. If there was a sidewalk it was made of wood. most roads were dirt. Indoor plumbing (toilet) was not the order of the day. Heating was a pot-bellied stove in one room of the house. That meant in northern Minnesota that the other rooms were cold, sometime very very cold. 40 below zero was not a rare record low and snow that reached the roof line of your house happened ever winter. Air conditioning, never heard of it. If it was that hot in the summer it was a block of ice with a fan pushing the cold air about 5 feet.

Toys! if you were lucky enough to have a toy it was made of wood and you treasured it like it was gold. Money was scarce as was food, heat and most other things.

The winters were long, cold and difficult. The interesting thing was that we didn't know that it was a rugged life, we thought that it was that way everywhere.

One day my Nookomis (grandmother) gave me a present for my birthday. It was wrapped in butchers paper. For those of you who don't know what butchers paper is, it is the heavy white paper that butchers wrap their meat in. Today it's mostly plastic, but then I don't even remember if there was plastic. We sure didn't have any.

I unwrapped the present and was stunned to see a book. A real book just for me. My dad had a couple of books that I had read numerous times. Both were Zane Gray novels and I loved them. But here was a book that was mine, all mine.

The book was ''Call of the Wild'' by Jack London. It wasn't a new book, used at best and I don't know where or how my nookomis could afford it, but she did. Later in life I learned that she could not write in English and reading it was at best difficult. She was fluent in Ojibwe and French. She could speak pretty good English though. She looked at me and said something that I'll never forget. Animikee, (my Ojibwe name) this is your passage to the world. I didn't really know what she meant by that at the time, but looking back I now understand what a wise nookomis she was.

I read that book dozens of times and enjoyed it each and every time. Laying in my bed on cold winters nights, the wind howling outside, lost in the book. I knew that I was there with Buck the dog and we were fighting the forces of evil and we would always win.

Soon after that we got our first radio, but still the book was my prized possession. I added to my collection with Jack Londons, White Fang, The Return of White Fang and The Sea Witch.

Let's jump to the present. I'm now in my seventh decade, many say the autumn of my life. I still love to read and my taste has spread out to a number of areas.

The other night I was sitting in the great room of our new house, looking out over the mountains and lake. The trees turning colors and losing their leaves. Out great room is larger then the whole house that I grew up in. I thought to myself, you sure have come a long way Animikee. Then for some reason I remembered the book. I still have the copy that my nookomis gave me, old tattered and worn, but it's my connection to my past and my nookomis. I took the book off the shelf and opened it.

As soon as I turned the first page, the memories came flooding back from my childhood. A wonderful experience it was.

Yes, that book opened a passage to the world for me.

Miigwetch Nookomis (thank you grandma)

Kavika 2012. All rights reserved.