Last spring we visited Key West. Of course we toured the Hemingway home.
That was Vikram’s 9th birthday week. Being a natural reader, he couldn’t leave the premises without a book.
What to buy?
The novels and stories that introduced me to Hemingway — A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, the Nick Adams shorts — there’s very little in those for a nine year old.
But here was something: The Old Man and the Sea.
I didn’t care much for it growing up, even if it did alert the Nobel crowd to Hemingway’s lasting contribution to literature.
We picked up the slim volume and read it together under the giant marlin high on the yellow wall of the seaside cottage we had for the week. Vikram snuggled in tight and listened close. He took in every word. He caught on to Manolin and Santiago and of course, he sympathized with the fish. He remembered DiMaggio’s heel spur, the brutal fishing line, the tormented loneliness of endless days at sea.
And oh, those bastard sharks!
This week we prepare Vikram’s first Grade Four reading project. He’s to interpret a story “that could actually happen.” Cheers to his teacher for forcing him off Harry Potter’s Magic and Percy Jackson’s Myths!
Back in the world, we considered our shared literary journey under the clear blue sky of the world we know, books like those that carried us west to Ramona Quimby’s Seattle, northeast to the Hardy’s Newport, or south to Tom Sawyer’s Missouri.
Vikram’s building a diorama: skiff, fish, a roiling sea, a victorious harpoon…
We’re reading it again, curled up on the couch, making our way through that beautiful opening between Manolin and Santiago. At bedtime I say: “You can read it further on your own.”
“I don’t want to.”
“It’s just not the same without you.”
These old hands type this up, creased in gratitude and sorrow.
How many of the great classics will I get to read with my son? Wherever I must leave off, I hope he reads them all on his own.