Blueberries for Sal

If you’re looking for great books to read to kids, you can’t do better than Robert McCloskey. Make Way for Ducklings is legendary in Boston and Blueberries for Sal has always been legendary in my family since the title character looks exactly like my mom, Sally Hartshorne, who made me bookish.

Make Way for Ducklings is about a family of ducks in Boston for whom a Boston policeman stops traffic. Blueberries for Sal is about two moms and two youngsters who go blueberry picking and the youngsters wind up following the wrong moms.

Since one mom is a bear, this might lead to a problematic situation, but things work themselves out, as they so often do.

And for kids who are learning to read, you can’t do better than McCloskey’s Homer Price and the sequel Centerburg Tales. Kids love Homer and his pet skunk Aroma and the doughnut making machine that goes haywire and the 42 pounds of edible fungus that kept the settlers from starving. Adults love all this, too. It’s a true slice of Americana, brilliantly written and illustrated.

My mom and I went for a walk the other day and I mentioned Blueberries for Sal. No recollection. Robert McCloskey is gone. So are Lord Byron and Keats and Shakepeare. So is Harriet Beecher Stowe, about whom my mom wrote her PhD thesis.

I worked for a time as a companion to people with Alzheimer’s, but I have never seen the disease act so quickly. At one time I was looking after a guy who had written books about the chemistry of the brain and was experiencing symptoms of dementia.

He said his trouble was forming new memory. “It doesn’t stick,” he explained. “By the time I reach the end of a paragraph, I’ve forgotten the beginning.” Yet he was able to tell me all about his experiences at college and his career.

With my mom the progression has been much more rapid and invasive, wiping out old memory as well as new.

So that leaves us pretty much in the present tense. We talk about the pictures we see in the clouds.

Tomorrow we’re going tag sailing.