It has always been a joy to hear my sister Phyllis read aloud. Till my last days, I will cherish a few days during school Christmas vacation in 1961. Phyllis was enjoying reading Great Expectations in her ninth grade English class and offered to read a few pages aloud. Daddy was working second shift at the paper mill, so once he left and the remains of the noon meal were cleared away, we settled in the cozy living room for a reading. I would have been eleven, Billy, eight, and Connie and Marilyn, two and a few months old. Enraptured by the story of Pip, the cruel Estella, and the mad Miss Havisham, I would have probably saved the book first had the house caught fire. I loved the kindly Jo and despised Mrs. Jo, his mean sister. Phyllis read for several hours as the babies played on the floor in the warm front room, enjoying being in the middle of us all clustered together around the reader. We broke only long enough to get a simple supper together and do evening chores. Soon we were back in place, where she held us till bedtime, happy captives.
The next day, we rushed through chores to be free for reading again, settling in as soon as Daddy left. Phyllis read on and on, as we did whatever chores we could that didn’t, interfere with her reading, folding laundry, ironing, watching the babies. Mother hemmed a skirt and hand-worked buttonholes in a blouse. Mother just felt we couldn’t through another afternoon listening to Phyllis read.
The next day, and the next, Phyllis read as we hung on every word about foolish, arrogant Pip. Finally, late on the fourth day, Phyllis finished Great Expectations,
leaving me questioning and hungering for more. Why had Miss Havisham gone to so much trouble to be cruel? How could Pip be so ungrateful and foolish? What happened afterwards?
Phyllis read us many more books, to my great joy, introducing me to some great literature.