We live just a few miles north of this area’s premier amusement park, an “old west” style take on the rollercoaster, log flume, tilt-a-whirl, thrill ride world that you can find in other forms all across the country. I have passed by the place, which sets along Interstate 35, twice a day for more than 23 years as I make my way to and from work. Every September, just before it closes for the season, the park celebrates the coming Halloween holiday with FrightFest – a time where the place receives a major creepy makeover with monsters and mummies traipsing around the park and spiderwebs draped across the rides and along the fencelines that run near the interstate. However, my favorite decoration is their gigantic black spider and its web, which is several stories tall and perched precariously up the side of the park’s tallest rollercoaster. It is easily identifiable for a mile or so from the interstate and can’t help but catch your eye in those first days of its placement there each and every year.
I was driving by this genuine monstrosity just the other day and it reminded me of my wife’s favorite childhood book – Charlotte’s Web. The E.B. White classic is likely no stranger to you, and if you have seen either of the two great movies that were made from it, all the better. If you don’t know or remember it that well, it is the wonderfully gracious story of a sweet and innocent pig named Wilbur who is saved from the butcher shop by a wise and mysterious spider named Charlotte. It is a story of friendship and life and death and memory beautifully encapsulated in a children’s story that reads and is illustrated more truly as a work of art.
When Shelley was in elementary school, she owned a paperback version of it and her mother, who loved to sew, fashioned a cover for it to keep it from harm. Today that book and its wonderful personalized cover holds a special place on our family bookshelf.
Several years ago when our youngest was just entering Kindergarten, my wife drove her to school each morning and the pair listened to the author read Charlotte’s Web on CD. Later when our youngest learned to read, they took the original book with its handmade cover on those same drives and she would read each and every page aloud to her mom as they waited in the long carpool line for school. In the evening around the dinner table, they would both share with us a great line or a funny saying from that day’s reading. It was a profound thing to hear the entire family sitting around that table talking about a wonderful book that has been a part of my wife’s life for nearly 40 years.
And it is also true that some girls can indeed like spiders, especially those who stay on the page (or the rollercoaster) of their imagination.