When it comes to lists, I am late to that of the bucket variety. I do, however, have a Fire List. I suppose it's no more morbid than a list that centers around the certainty of death. As I show people various keepsakes in my home, I will often describe things as being on the list of things that, in the event of a fire, I would attempt to save. There is a presumption here that this would only occur after every person is safely out of the house.
The criteria for the list is necessarily simple and rooted in sentiment, not a surprise for those who know me. Items must be small/light enough to carry out easily and they must be of significant meaning in my life. A certain antique box filled with original family photos of stern-looking pioneers, pleated-skirt & saddle-oxford-clad girls, and baby images of those who are now grandparents. A hand-stitched beaded sampler that took my friend, Amber, a year to complete. And my set of Little House on the Prairie books, a Christmas present when I was seven-years-old.
Worn and faded, they thrill my heart and prompt a slight caress as I pass my bookshelf. For me, they contain the wonder of words, a child's discovery of transportation possible without moving. They are comfort, as they were for me throughout my childhood--another world of love and order in the midst of our own family's dysfunction, the nobility of work and the beauty of the hidden--in deed and thought. They are respect for children in the way they are written. They are pride in and a link to my own pioneer ancestors and beauty in the ordinary. They are portraits of recognizable people and recorded images of cozy quilts, food prepared with love, and hospitality. They are my secret aspirations as a daughter, wife, mother, friend, and citizen.
I spent countless hours returning to these books between the new ones I read. When I can't sleep at night because of worry or just exhaustion, I still turn to these familiar pages instead of my current read, and I find myself calmed for sleep. I list many novels as favorites, influential, life-changing and I love them as dear friends. They are all real in my life, their characters' influence traceable in my thoughts and actions. They aren't all on my Fire List though, because for me, any copy of them will do. In the case of my Little House set, it is the volumes themselves, not just what they contain, which have concrete meaning for me.
As I think about it, though, this set of books also represents solitude for me. Life as almost an only child, with a sister ten years my senior, a room to myself instead of one shared with a sibling and quiet, with only my own thoughts to consider. I longed for the activity and noise of the family reflected on the pages of these books and I now have all the noise and action for which any only or near-only child could hope. The solitary aspect of literature is not enough. We were made for communion and fellowship--with God and each other. We each have special viewpoints and contributions.
So, I look forward to this book club. It is an amazing group of women for whom reading is necessity and succor. These kindred spirits are a miracle to me. I rejoice in their love of the written word, their understanding of truth to be found in the most ordinary of places, and their fearlessness when it comes to art and the world--a fearlessness grounded in faith.
My child's heart finds comfort in well-worn volumes of pioneer tales. I need this book club as a time specially set aside for my mature heart to regularly find meaning and comfort through the insights and reflections of a collection of women, each with her own faith, story, and unique purpose. From Fire List to a flame lit--to kindle pondering, fellowship, and lofty thoughts that bring our minds to God and transform our deceptively simple-looking lives with His reality.