We just finished reading Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin in school. As I read the last few paragraphs aloud, I found that I was feeling "choked up." And I looked up to see my young boys with flushed faces and tears in their eyes as well. We sat for a moment in the silence of the feelings and ideas that washed over us. It was a tender moment worth every other moment of struggle we have gone through in school to get to the point of still, quiet contemplation of a well-written text. No words were needed while we communed together in this precious shared experience.
After a time, I asked what thoughts and emotions were filling their minds. As a tear rolled down his face, my 9-year-old said, "I want more of Benjamin." He asked if I could find more to read about him. My 7-year-old, through pink puffy cheeks and while biting his lips to hold back tears, said "We've been reading about him for so long. It feels like a friend to us that we are leaving. Like Sara Crewe, too." (A reference to Little Princess.)
From the final two paragraphs of the book:
"Long seconds after the last note had been sung, the crowd stood still. They had journeyed so far back into America that they were a long time returning. Slowly the sun umbrellas clicked shut. Slowly the people walked back to their horses. They still seemed part of the long ago and the far away. They had struggled with the boy Benjamin, as he overcame great odds. They had watched the boy grow until he became the father of American painting.
It was not easy for them to begin talking in their everyday voices, as if nothing had happened to them. Something had happened to them. They had gone a-leafing and found a page of American history."
Something had happened to us. We had found a friend. And when my 7-year-old asked what we would do next without Benjamin, I told him that we would find another friend - and keep Benjamin and Sara in our hearts as well.