drawing of kate
Dear Nimrod,

After you read the poem "We Read," you suggested I write something about my favorite book. I think perhaps you were expecting one of the classics or some modern literary tome. I am sorry to deflate your fantasy of my intellectual capabilities. It's a paperback book with a 35 cent price on the cover. The title is "Sensible Kate."

You know the one. I've quoted it often enough.

I've read Sensible Kate at least once a year since I was 8 or 9. Some times have been bad, and those are the times I read the book at least once a month. Some times have been really bad, and those are the times I read it each week. Some times have been really really bad, and those are the times when Kate never left me.

Sensible Kate is a sensible child (of course!) who is brutally plain and common, in her own eyes and those of everyone else. An orphan arriving at her new foster home, she is described by the county worker:

"I'm sure you'll find Kate a very sensible child," Miss Watson had said on leaving.

It hadn't sounded very thrilling then, and it didn't seem very thrilling now as Kate lay thinking about it. That was all anyone had ever been able to say in praise of her. She was sensible. Somehow it left a great deal to be desired. In the long catalogue of human endowments, it seemed a bitter thing that she should have drawn only good sense as her portion. Perhaps, she decided, it was all she had a right to expect. People with red hair and freckles couldn't expect very much. And it was undoubtedly better than nothing at all."

As a child, I identified mightily with Kate's desire to find her place in the world, and her sense that her few gifts were inadequate for the job. I still do. Substitute "Practical" for "Sensible." Not a lot of difference. Just about as exciting. You remember why my nickname is "Nitty," don't you?

But, if all Kate had to offer was the story of a sensible and lonely child's time in a foster home, I would have left Sensible Kate in her seaside town long ago. Kate also has a tiny inkling, and is even told by her closest friend, that in time she might become wise. That cute and pretty children become boring adults, but sensible and homely children often grow into wise ones. Her eager search for even the faintest path to follow in her quest to become wise is truly poetic. And reading the story even now as the practical Nitty, I never lose hope that Kate and I will eventually grow up and become wise together.

We've been at it a long time.

take care,


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