Denise Day Spencer

August 13, 2007

Simple thanks

Filed under: Home Front — denisedayspencer @ 7:24 pm

Recently Michael, Clay and I took a day trip to the quaint little town of Berea. There we visited a used book store that a friend had introduced Michael to. (Thanks, Joel!) It was a delightful store–with no resemblance whatsoever to the hideous maze o’ books that nearly sucked us into its evil vortex in Columbus.

Every time I thought I was ready to leave, I recalled another author I wanted to search for. Finally the cashier rang up my purchases: The Hunchback of Notre Dame for $3, The Confessions of Nat Turner at $3 and Sue Grafton’s P is for Peril for $2. How’s that for eclectic taste? (And for shopping cheap!)

I also made a purchase for Clay: Harriet Arnow’s The Dollmaker. Clay spent most of his time perusing the Appalachian writers’ section and the poetry shelves. He had just returned from a week-long Appalachian writers’ workshop, and it gave him a new appreciation for the stories, poems and music of the mountains.

It was a true joy for me to watch my son looking at so many books, turning them over in his hands, appreciating the words and ideas within. You see, we are a family of readers. Michael and I learned to love books at an early age. We made it a point to read to our children from the time they were babies, and Noel took to books like a duck to water. From picture books to “American Girls” and Nancy Drew, then on to be an English major. “That’s our girl,” Michael and I would say, beaming with pride.

Then there was Clay.

Clay, who didn’t share his sister’s love for school or anything related to school, including books. Reading, writing, book reports, all of these tasks were distasteful chores for Clay. Time after time we tried in vain to get him to catch the vision. Stories were so wonderful! They could take you to places you’d never been, and could introduce you to people and creatures you’d otherwise never, ever meet! But Clay, though very creative and imaginative, had no interest in our promises. Reading was, plain and simple, too much trouble. We would look at each other and wonder, “Whose kid is he, anyway?” Did the stork drop the babe in the wrong chimney? Was there an infant switch at the hospital?

Then one day Clay met a boy. A strange, 11-year-old, nearsighted, disheveled boy, raised in one world but belonging to another. A boy named “Harry Potter.” We would walk past Clay’s room and–wonder of wonders!–he would be in there reading. He devoured The Sorcerer’s Stone and quickly moved on to The Chamber of Secrets. He moved from Harry Potter to other books, then other genres.

And then, in his dad’s English class, Clay discovered he was a poet. (Thank you, Michael!)

Now in his rare evenings at home, Clay sits on the back porch with a cigar in one hand and his poetry journal in the other. He, too, is an English major. Reading and writing are about as important to him as, well, breathing. And Michael and I are still delightfully amazed.

I said a couple of posts ago that I was reading book seven in the Harry Potter series. I won’t say much about it; I’ll leave that to all of you H.P. experts out there, of which there are a-plenty. Suffice it to say it was every bit as satisfying as I knew it would be.

I know that if it hadn’t been Harry who changed Clay’s life, he may very well have met up with some other chap equally engaging. But the fact remains that it was Harry. My point is not to discuss the pros and cons of fantasy literature, or to answer questions like, “Should Christians let their children read stories about magic?” The moral of this story is quite simple:

Thank you, J. K. Rowling, from the bottom of my heart. May your butterbeer keg never run dry, and may your Pensieve always brim with happiness.



  1. […] Denise thanks J.K. Posted by: Michael Spencer @ 9:29 pm | Trackback | Permalink […]

    Pingback by The Boar’s Head Tavern » — August 13, 2007 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

  2. Denise –

    I, too, am an avid reader, and have been since I was 4 or 5 years old. My older son, Jake, inherited this from me, and even though he has not turned out like I dreamed (he went to live with his dad at the age of 13, and pretty much went downhill from there, although my prayers are constant, and I am seeing improvement), my earliest memories of his life center around books. I read to him as an infant, a toddler, a pre-schooler, and even after he learned to read himself, we always went to bed with a book – “Where the Red Fern Grows”, “Huckleberry Finn”, “Tom Sawyer”, “The Chronicles of Narnia” – and how sweet those memories are to me now. Enter child # 2, and like your little Clay, he had absolutely NO interest in books, not even really liking to be read to that much. I did make him endure “Where the Red Fern Grows”, and he enjoyed it since I was doing the reading, but he didn’t care for Narnia (loved the movie of course!), and he doesn’t like HP (ditto the movies though). He’s required to read so many minutes a day for school, so I got him the usual Tree House books when he was little, and he would set a timer, not wanting to read one more minute than he had to. Last year in fifth grade, I gave him my old copy of “The Yearling” because I thought since he had to read so much per day, at least it could be something good. He suffered through it, though I could tell he was interested in Jody and Flag to a small degree (I don’t ask for miracles). So far, at nearly 12, the spark just hasn’t ignited, but your tale of Clay has given me hope. As I sit through his endless baseball, basketball and football games, I will still harbor that little small desire that some day he’ll pick up that special book, and a reader will be born. Thanks for giving my dream substance.

    C. Hays

    Comment by C. Hays — August 14, 2007 @ 10:41 am | Reply

  3. Which Columbus was that? And which bookstore?

    Comment by Julana — August 26, 2007 @ 8:02 am | Reply

  4. Ohio.

    I can’t remember the name. (Sorry.) It was downtown, in or near the Germantown area, I think.

    Comment by denisedayspencer — August 26, 2007 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

  5. Oh….. maybe The Book Loft in German Village. Hard to get a wheelchair through there, so we don’t go. ๐Ÿ™‚
    It’s not the best selection or prices. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Some of the Half Price Books aren’t bad. The campus Barnes and Noble on High just south of campus is nice. And there are a few used places north of campus: Karen Wycliffe, Pengwyn, and Hoffman’s–if you get back. (At least they were there, in the old days.)

    Comment by Julana — August 26, 2007 @ 4:58 pm | Reply

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