Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

She Taught by Simply Loving the Written Word

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

She Taught by Simply Loving the Written Word

Article excerpt

I would see her almost every day in the wanner seasons, sitting in an old beach chair on the sidewalk in front of her apartment building. I guessed her to be in her late 70s, and I knew that she lived on her Social Security and not much else. On hot days, she wore a baseball cap. On breezy days, she wore pretty scarfs to keep her wispy hair in place. She always wore cotton print dresses that were such lovely shades of light colors.

She loved reading and always had a paperback book with her. I could see her from where I sat in my second floor bedroom, where I kept my computer. Stuck on a sentence on a lazy summer afternoon, I would gaze out, my window and my eyes would invariably come to rest on her. A breeze would blow, and she would calmly adjust her cap without taking her eyes off the page of the book she had in her lap.

I would watch her, for there was something so simple and beautiful about her, about her reading. Every so often she would gently close the book and, with her finger keeping her place, she would raise her head and with a dreamlike smile, take in her surroundings. It was as if she was deeply refreshed from her excursion into the world offered by her paperback and could look with ease and. gratitude to the street that we shared.

I once saw her in a nearby used bookstore. I frequented that store a lot -- it was a feast for lovers of used paperbacks -- and when she checked her books out I was amazed at the selection. There were novels by Faulkner, Cather, Welty, Hemingway. She asked the cashier when a title by Endo would be in paperback, and I made a mental note of that name. …

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