Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Look what you started, Mom


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Originally uploaded by Luperca
It all started it I was 4.

I'd crawl into bed, snuggle up with my mom, and listen to her perfect voice read a perfect tale.

The first words I learned to sight-read were these: "he said" and "Buck."

I'll never know what possessed her to read aloud Jack London's The Call of the Wild to her 4-year-old. I don't even understand how a preschooler can grasp the language, let alone endure listening to some of the savage imagery.

But I did. Oh, how I did.

Browsing through the Wild Rumpus bookstore recently, I found a Dover Thrift edition for $1 and couldn't resist buying it, if for no other reason than to elicit those tender memories.

If you don't know the story, I don't want to spoil it for you. But I will say that Jack London's classic tells a tale of greed and of hard choices made during a hard time. And, my, doesn't that sound familiar? It also speaks of redemption.

I call myself a musher, because I've been bitten. Not by a dog, but by a call from my childhood that turned into a dream that became a reality for me last year and has now settled into my marrow.

People do crazy things when this happens. They sell all their belongings, move somewhere insanely cold, and start surrounding themselves with wolfish dogs who sing and jump around like frogs when someone appears with a harness that to them means freedom. Such joy is wildly infectious, and I can understand how people succumb to it. Only Mr. B stands between me and the same madness.

Today, Lance Mackey won the fabled "Last Great Race," the Iditarod dog sled race that remembers a period in our nation's history of which Jack London wrote so elegantly. No superbowl, final 4, or world series will ever compare in my mind to this race of everyday men and women who have gone mad for the love of dog and wilderness.

From The Call of the Wild by Jack London published in 1900...

John Thornton was eating dinner when Buck dashed into camp and sprang upon him, in a frenzy of affection, overturning him, scrambling upon him, licking his face, biting his hand--"playing the general tomfool," as John Thornton characterized it, the while he shook Buck back and forth and cursed him lovingly.

For two days and nights Buck never left camp, never let Thornton out of his sight. He followed him about at his work, watched him while he ate, saw him into his blankets at night and out of them in the morning.

But after two days the call in the forest began to sound more imperiously than ever...

Good night, Mom. Thank you for reading to me.
Good night, Victor, Grasshopper, and Dizzy.
May you all rest in peace.

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