I’ve been on a bit of a children’s lit kick lately. Oh wait, I’m always on a children’s lit kick. Well anyway, children’s lit is the perfect end-of-the-semester study break, because it’s easy and delightful and keeps me from crying into my laptop keyboard as I’m writing that fourth final paper.
So a week or two ago, I read Maniac Magee. (Where has this book been all my life?) It’s the story of a boy who runs and runs and runs, and whether he’s running away from something or searching for someone, well, that’s hard to say. He’s legendary and tough and good at everything, but he just wants a place to belong. I was struck by the following passage in which an old man named Grayson is trying to get him to go to school. Actually, it sort of reminded me of my dorm in high school. It was an overnight school where I could lay down my head at night and walk through the front door without knocking and everyone would be talking. That’s pretty magical when you’re fifteen years old. Or twenty six.
“But you gotta. Doncha? They’ll make ya.”
“Not if they don’t find me.”
The old man just looked at him for a while with a mixture of puzzlement and amazement…”Why?” he said.
Maniac felt why more than he knew why. It had to do with homes and families and schools, and how a school seems sort of like a big home, but only a day home, because then it empties out; and you can’t stay there at night because it’s not really a home, and you could never use it as your address, because an address is where you stay at night, where you walk right in the front door without knocking, where everybody talks to each other and uses the same toaster. So all the other kids would be heading for their homes, their night homes, each of them, hundreds, flocking from school like birds from a tree, scattering across town, each breaking off to his or her own place, each knowing exactly where to land. School. Home. No, he was not going to have one without the other.
“If you try and make me,” he said, “I’ll just start running.”