Back in my day, you had to read the books that were assigned in English class.
Because even if the book had been made into a movie, that didn’t mean we had easy access to it.
Oh, the joy of being able to watch Lord of the Flies instead of reading it.
No, we didn’t even have VCRs yet when I was in high school, let alone video-on-demand.
The only short cut to reading a ridiculously long novel in 1976 was Cliffs Notes.
Cliffs Notes were great – a paperback/pamphlet synopsis of classic pieces of literature. Each one provided a summary and literary analysis so that you didn’t have to actually read the book and figure out the theme on your own. Cliff just spelled it out for you, plain and simple. Our English teachers considered them cheating – even though their lockers and desk drawers were crammed full of those little bumblebee stripes.
I didn’t learn about Cliffs Notes until I was a sophomore, so that meant I had to read all of Jane Eyre as a freshman.
It wasn’t until the night before the quiz in English class that I remembered the assignment.
Panic ensued as I pulled the book down off of our bookshelf that night and discovered it was over 400 pages long.
No M*A*S*H for me that night.
At some point – probably as I took the gigantic book to bed with me – my mother asked what I was doing and I told her about the quiz and about how I’d kept putting off reading and forgotten about it until just now.
After I was in bed, she came in my room and told me to scoot over.
“And if you ever do this again,” she said, “you’re on your own.”
For the next several chapters, we took turns reading aloud. Until during one of my mother’s turns to read aloud, I fell sound asleep.
The next morning over breakfast she told me the whole story and I made a perfect score on the quiz.
Even though I’ve seen the movie and the play version since then, I still can’t remember the storyline of Jane Eyre.
But I’ve never forgotten where I can go for help. Even when I mess up.
Happy Mother’s Day.