Love is something if you give it away,
you give it away, you give it away.
Love is something if you give it away;
you end up having more.
– Malvina Reynolds
Here‘s an amazing story (New York Times, 3/21/10). Jim Brozina and his wife had two daughters, Kathy and Kristen. Jim loved to read to them when they were little, but when the older girl, Kathy, was in the fourth grade, she announced that from then on, she would read to herself, thank you very much. She didn’t need Dad for that anymore.
But Kristen still wanted her father to read to her, so Jim wasn’t totally bereft. He read to Kristen every night, but as time passed, the dreaded (for Jim) fourth grade approached, the time when Kathy had struck out on her own. About that time though, both of Kristen’s grandparents died, Kathy went off to college and her mother announced she was divorcing Jim. Jim and Kristen were left with only each other.
Then, with their family pared abruptly from six to two, Jim proposed the “Streak.” He suggested that he try to read aloud to Kristen for 100 consecutive nights. She agreed, and the thing was easily done; they read every night for over three months without ever missing a night. But that wasn’t enough for her, so Kristen upped the ante – and then some. With the Streak over, she suggested they go for 1,000 straight nights. Jim was pleased, but wondered how they’d manage it. After all, that’s over 2 1/2 years without ever forgetting, without ever being apart, without ever being sick.
Still, they embarked on the new Streak. Once, Jim was out of town so Kristen called him at his hotel and he read to her over the phone. Another time, she was rehearsing late for a school play, when Jim showed up. They sat down in the theater and he read to her. They flew past the 1,000 mark as if it weren’t even there.
In all, Jim read to Kristen for a total of 3,218 days, nights, mornings, afternoons. For almost nine years, they never missed a day. The Streak went from talking hippos to Hamlet, from Oz to Agatha Christie. By the time she was in high school, her friends knew all about the Streak and accomodated it without comment. If she were out at night with friends, they’d all drop by her house and her friends would hang out in the living room while her father read to Kristen. Then they’d go out again and Jim would go to bed.
Finally though, the Streak ended when Kristen went off to college. There was no way it could last past that. As Jim says,
“It would have been stringing it out artificially,’ he said. “Did you see Willie Mays at the end of his career? Sad. It was past time.’
Not surprisingly, Kristen grew up to be a very verbal woman. She majored in English, won two national writing contests, a college English department award and edited both the humor and literary magazines of her college.
That was part of the point. Jim is a librarian and is passionate about nothing more than books. So he wanted his daughter to learn the value of reading from him. But more than that, their connection through reading served to give the young Kristen stability in a world that had changed rapidly and radically. She needed that sense of predictability, and her father was there to give it to her. Unlike everyone else, he was there for her; he wan’t going anywhere.
If the truth be known, I imagine Jim needed something like the same thing. His world too had had its foundations rocked and having his daughter by his side gave him someone to whom to express his love and to hold on to.
And for 3,218 days, each person, father and daughter, gave to the other what the other could get nowhere else, with books as the go-between. It’s got to be a record.