The Bear, Part One

A friend told me that teenagers are like bears. Bears! I liked it. Cute and lazy and funny and unpredictable. Loving and grumpy. My friend, Julia had it. Hey, Julia!

Lu had some English tutoring sessions over the holidays. For five sessions over Skype, her teacher introduced a book for reading – the classic Jane Eyre. Ha! Do you think Lu was excited about it?

Took three days to get her past the first five pages. Then slowly, her nose stuck into her Kindle for longer periods. I started getting the odd comment. ‘Is it just me or is Jane a stalker?’ And ‘Whose internal world is this intense and for this long?’ As she read, it became more enjoyable to hear her comments about the book. Full disclosure – I’ve never read Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. We had to read Jane Austen’s Emma at school. I never looked back – or forwards.

‘Tell me what’s happening now, Lu?’

I’d get a grunt from the sofa. ‘I’m not sure myself. I’m going to have to read that part again.’ Then a few minutes later, ‘It’s like she never stops talking. Why is she engaged to Mr Rochester and still calling him Sir? This book is getting weirder. Oh, and Mr Rochester is such a silly billy for dressing up as a gypsy fortune teller. Could he be any creepier?’

I could listen to Lulu all day. The book became high, unexpected Easter entertainment. Lulu started reading it aloud too. Another disclosure – despite having never read Jane Eyre, I did know the twist at the end. Lulu did not. I’d remembered it when she explained to me over dinner how Rochester had been mysteriously burned in the middle of the night by one of his servants. I smiled to myself. This was getting better.

Classic books have anchored us recently. Indeed, Jane Eyre was progressing nicely until the last of Lu’s tutor sessions, when Lu’s teacher told her the twist and then said kindly good-bye. Kind of took the tension out of it.

‘She’s doing that internal thing again,’ Lu groaned. Despite my best efforts, she’s pulled her nose out of Jane Eyre. For now. And she’s just finished studying Of Mice and Men for school. That’s an entirely different pancake.

I love Steinbeck so much, I full-on hate him for his clear and simple prose. I’m petty like that. His descriptions of nature are particularly unbeatable. The man was a magician. Not saying I would have liked him if I met him, but he probably wouldn’t have liked me either. I’d have scowled at him and looked for that magic doll tucked into his waist. The one he’d obviously bought to give him his writing powers. Then I’d have looked for some Steinbeck kryptonite to throw at him. Bit of a tangent, sorry. I did tell you I was petty.

No way I would have done that to Charlotte Brontë though. Charlotte Brontë got my bear reading again. She can keep her internal world.