Who wants to die? Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It's growing out of sour earth. And it's strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.
She was made up of more, too. She was the books she read in the library. She was the flower in the brown bowl. Part of her life was made from the tree growing rankly in the yard. She was the bitter quarrels she had with her brother whom she loved dearly. She was Katie's secret, despairing weeping. She was the shame of her father stumbling home drunk. She was all of these things and of something more...It was what God or whatever is His equivalent puts into each soul that is given life - the one different thing such as that which makes no two fingerprints on the face of the earth alike.
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It is a good thing to learn the truth one's self. To first believe with all your heart, and then not to believe, is good too. It fattens the emotions and makes them to stretch. When as a woman life and people disappoint her, she will have had practice in disappointment and it will not come so hard. In teaching your child do not forget that suffering is good too. It makes a person rich in character.
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There's a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that grows out of cement. It grows lushly . . . survives without sun, water, and seemingly without earth. It would be considered beautiful except that there are too many of it.
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You took a walk on a Sunday afternoon and came to a nice neighborhood, very refined. You saw a small one of these trees through the iron gate leading to someone's yard and you knew that soon that section of Brooklyn would get to be a tenement district. The tree knew. It came there first. Afterwards, poor foreigners seeped in and the quiet old brownstone houses were hacked up into flats, feather beds were pushed out on the window sills to air and the Tree of Heaven flourished. That was the kind of tree it was. It liked poor people.
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There is here, what is not in the old country. In spite of hard, unfamiliar things, there is here - hope. In the old country, a man can be no more than his father, providing he works hard. If his father was a carpenter, he may be a carpenter. He many not be a teacher or a priest. He may rise - but only to his father's state. In the old country, a man is given to the past. Here he belongs to the future. In this land, he may be what he will, if he has the good heart and the way of working honestly at the right things.
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Francie was ten years old when she first found an outlet in writing. What she wrote was of little consequence. What was important was that the attempt to write stories kept her straight on the dividing line between truth and fiction. If she had not found this outlet in writing, she might have grown up to be a tremendous liar.
...the reading, the observing, the living from day to day. It was something that had been born into her and her only - the something different from anyone else in the two families. It was what God or whatever is His equivalent puts into each soul that is given life - the one different thing such as that which makes no two fingerprints on the face of the earth alike.
Dear God," she prayed, "let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry... have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere - be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.
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Because," explained Mary Rommely simply, "the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination. I, myself, even in this day and at my age, have great need of recalling the miraculous lives of the Saints and the great miracles that have come to pass on earth. Only by having these things in my mind can I live beyond what I have to live for.
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Francie had heard swearing since she had heard words. Obscenity and profanity had no meaning as such among those people. They were emotional expressions of inarticulate people with small vocabularies; they made a kind of dialect. The phrases could mean many things according to the expression and tone used in saying them. So now, when Francie heard themselves called lousy bastards, she smiled tremulously at the kind man. She knew that he was really saying, 'Goodbye-God bless you.
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Yes, when I get big and have my own home, no plush chairs and lace curtains for me. And no rubber plants. I'll have a desk like this in my parlor and white walls and a clean green blotter every Sunday night and a row of shining yellow pencils always sharpened for writing and a golden-brown bowl with a flower or some leaves or berries always in it and books... books..books.
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The library was a little old shabby place. Francie thought it was beautiful. The feeling she had about it was as good as the feeling she had about church. She pushed open the door and went in. She liked the combined smell of worn leather bindings, library past and freshly inked stamping pads better than she liked the smell of burning incense at high mass.
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Yes, when I get big and have my own home, no plush chairs and lace curtains for me. And no rubber plants. I'll have a desk like this in my parlor and white walls and a clean green blotter every Saturday night and a row of shining yellow pencils always sharpened for writing and a golden-brown bowl with a flower or some leaves or berries always in it and books... books... books...
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Oh, magic hour when a child first knows it can read printed words! For quite a while, Francie had been spelling out letters, sounding them and then putting the sounds together to mean a word. But, one day, she looked at a page and the word "mouse" had instantaneous meaning. She looked at the word, and a picture of a gray mouse scampered through her mind. She looked further and when she saw "horse, " she heard him pawing the ground and saw the sun glint on his glossy coat. The word "running" hit her suddenly and she breathed hard as though running herself. The barrier between he individual sound of each letter and the whole meaning of the word was removed and the printed word meant a thing at one quick glance. She read a few pages rapidly and almost became ill with excitement. She wanted to shout it out. She could read! She could read! From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came to adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.
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May I have this damaged bunch for two cents? Speak strongly and it shall be yours for two cents. That is a saved penny that you put in the star bank... Suffer the cold for an hour. Put a shawl around you. Sai, I am cold because I am saving to buy land. That hour will save you three cents' worth of coal... When you are alone at night, do not light the lamp. Sit in the darkness and dream awhile. Reckon out how much oil you saved and put its value in pennies in the bank. The money will grow. Someday there will be fifty dollars and somewhere on this long island is a piece of land that you may buy for that money.
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She wanted to own a book so badly and she had thought the copying would do it. But the pencilled sheets did not seem like nor smell like the library book so she had given it up, consoling herself with the vow that when she grew up, she would work hard, save money and buy every single book that she liked.
Wouldn't it be more of a free country, " persisted Francie "if we could ride in them free?" "No." "Why?" "Because that would be Socialism, " concluded Johnny triumphantly, "and we don't want that over here." "Why?" "Because we got democracy and that's the best thing there is, " clinched Johnny.
Her time has come, " answered Miss Lizzie. "That's why I didn't marry Harvey - long ago when he asked me. I was afraid of 'that'. So afraid." "I don't know, " Miss Lizzie said. "Sometimes I think it's better to suffer bitter unhappiness and to fight and to scream out, and even to suffer that terrible pain, than just to be safe." She waited until the next scream died away. "At least she knows she's living.
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This is the book, then , and the book of Shakespeare. And every day you must read a page of each to your child-even though you yourself do not understand what is written down and cannot sound the words properly. You must do this that the child will grow up knowing of what is great-knowing that these tenements of Williamsburg are not the whole world." Katie: " The Protestant Bible and Shakespeare.
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I will not speak falsely and say to you: 'Do not grieve for me when I go.' I have loved my children and tried to be a good mother and it is right that my children grieve for me. But let your grief be gentle and brief. And let resignation creep into it. Know that I shall be happy. I shall see face to face the great saints I have loved all my life.
Did you ever see so many pee-wee hats, Carl?" "They're beanies." "They call them pee-wees in Brooklyn." "But I'm not in Brooklyn." "But you're still a Brooklynite." "I wouldn't want that to get around, Annie." "You don't mean that, Carl." "Ah, we might as well call them beanies, Annie." "Why?" "When in Rome do as the Romans do." "Do they call them beanies in Rome?" she asked artlessly. "This is the silliest conversation...
From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.
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Francie always remembered what that kind teacher told her. 'You know, Francie, a lot of people would think that these stories that you're making up all the time were terrible lies because they are not the truth as people see the truth. In the future, when something comes up, you tell exactly how it happened but write down for yourself the way you think it should have happened. Tell the truth and write the story. Then you won't get mixed up.