Thanks to The Sisterhood of Traveling Books, I recently finished Betty Smith's classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
I can't get Francie, Neeley, and the gang out of my head, and that, my friends, is the mark of a book that's bound to be one of my all-time favorites.
This isn't a story of wild action and soap opera-like plot twists and turns; it's the simple, honest, pure portrayal of what it was like for a young girl to grow up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn around the turn of the 20th century.
I took my time with this book and savored every one of Smith's words--not only because they are so beautifully and perfectly chosen but also because it made me feel that much closer to my immigrant ancestors who were living similar lives in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania around the same time.
And I think of Francie, and I remember the women in my family from that generation, and I am amazed and humbled to be where I am today, living the life that I have--all thanks to their hard work, determination, and good old-fashioned grit.
I could fill many posts with quotes from this book where I've dog-eared the pages, but I'll offer up my favorite and encourage you to find a copy and read it for yourself.
This part comes just after Francie finds out that World War I has begun; she wants to remember the moment forever, so she clips a lock of her hair and puts it in an envelope, seals it, and marks the front "Frances Nolan, age 15 years and 4 months. April 6, 1917."
Then she prays:
"Dear God . . . 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."
Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life.
May we all be so blessed.