Mama taught me to read at an early age

Published 10:29 pm Friday, June 9, 2017

Mama read me to sleep until I was seven, when one night she handed me a small book bound in green, with a gilt title swirled across the cover. “Heidi”, it read, and in smaller print, “Johanna Spyri”. Mama said that I was old enough to read the book by myself, and what adventures I would discover? Wasn’t I excited?

No. I was not excited, thank you very much. How was I supposed to get drowsy and go off to sleep when the Sandman appeared to sprinkle me with magic sleep glitter if I was stuck reading a book for crying out loud?

Mama knew what she was doing though, and it wasn’t long before I fell headlong into the world of Heidi and her adventures. I loved the descriptions of the Swiss Alps and the goats that ran up and down the mountains, tended by Heidi’s friend Peter, and her grumpy grandfather. I read before bed and before school and during school and in the bathtub.

One of my favorite things about “Heidi” was the snack that the main characters ate in the evenings. It was cheese, roasted over the fire, and bread. The meal was simple but Heidi found great comfort in the bubbling cheese and toasted bread.

One morning when Mama and I were talking about what all was going on in Heidi’s world, I told her about the dish that Heidi loved so, and how good it sounded.

“Pepper, that’s just cheese toast!” she said.

When Mama made cheese toast for me it was yummy for sure, but it was not roasted; it was just melted! I told her that she was mistaken and that Heidi wouldn’t be caught dead eating dumb old Kraft slices on Colonial bread.

Mama raised an eyebrow in a way that sometimes meant, “You have 10 seconds to live.”, but that morning meant, “Well, we’ll see about that.”, and stepped into the kitchen. A minute later, she was sliding two pieces of not-yet cheese toast under the broiler.

The cheese melted and Mama smiled, but didn’t remove the snacks from the oven. It got gooey, and her eyebrow went up again. Soon, the most heavenly smell began to fill the kitchen!

I inhaled the same savory aroma that Heidi must have enjoyed so long ago.

When a perfectly browned domed crust had formed on the cheese, Mama removed the cheese toast from the oven and placed it on plates, one for me and one for her. We sat together in warm silence as we enjoyed the simple treat that Heidi loved, and that filled me with love for my magical Mama who knew everything, and shared it all with me.