When I turned the page my voice cracked, I had read this book many times before. Mary buried herself in my shoulder, innately sensing what she could not possibly know. This story was new, as it was to me when I read it for the first time with my grandmother, when I first sunk into her arm cradled around me. A pause, a deep breath and I continued, “I will not be going back to the barn”.
My arm brought Mary closer, and we continued. Six pages later Charlotte “summoned all her strength and waved one of her front legs at him”; Mary burrowed further into my sweater, unaware that the most difficult part was yet to come. Kate was quiet and still, I squeezed her leg and continued.
The lonely and well drawn description of the post-fair grounds has always been tortuous for me, and it was for Mary, who sobbed uncontrollably. The juxtaposition of the busy fair full of people and life with Charlotte’s quiet demise brought both of us silence, clinging to each other, not at all alone; “No one was with her when she died”.
Kate sat quietly, her lip quivering, clearly too overcome with emotion to speak. “Are you all right love?”, I asked, reaching beyond my own pain to comfort a child who needed her mother.
“I am just trying not to laugh at you two”, said Kate.
The book is, of course, Charlotte's Web, one of my very favorites, be it now or then, when I first read it years ago with my grandmother: Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White