“He missed her; there was a silence in the studio that he seldom had minded before, but that evening he counted the hours until she would come again.” (Part 2, circa 1866-67, p.71, Claude and Camille by Stephenie Cowell)
The short paragraph describes Monet’s longing for Camille Doncieux, who modeled for him in Fotainbleau and eventually, in defiance of her parents’ wishes, married him. In me this sentence evokes a whole different picture—that of my grandfather.
It must have been a summer in mid 80s, I was in fourth or fifth grade. My grandfather came down with cancer and he had maybe months to live. My parents thought it would cheer up my grandfather, who was still capable of walking and taking care of himself, for me to go stay with him for a week. Grandpa was himself: with me he played chess, watched TV, and read. But in the fringe of my mind, haunting me, was this cancer business. Not so much I feared cancer might renege and claim my grandpa earlier than the doctor said but the idea of cancer’s insidiousness. It’s quietly working underneath the skin, in the midst of the body. Cancer was in the house, thriving silently as the clock ticked away in the dark silence, literally and figuratively. I would have counted the hours until my aunt would come again in the morning with groceries and flowers.
I share this because this is the perfect example of reading’s associative power. Reading often evokes a distant time and transports me back to a different station in my life. I felt I was a fourth grader all over again.