Or should I say, Darya Aleksandrovna and me. I've been leisurely re-reading Anna Karenina this spring. I pulled out my beloved college copy, and dove in. While reading it in the background I've covered a lot of other ground book-wise: American Rust, When You Are Engulfed In Flames (which I could swear after reading the whole thing that I've read it before, but not until finishing could I say with certainty. Hmm.), all the Moffat Books and All-Of-A-Kind Family books (just for kicks), and most of The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd. I think I always need a background book, it helps me feel anchored and have options. Starting today, it will become War and Peace, thanks to new "Slow Book Club" starting on Tuesday. 100 pages at a time--I will read War and Peace!
Anyway, during the course of it's stint as background book this season, Anna Karenina has been through a lot. I now hold it together with a blue asparagus rubberband and for the last 200 pages of the book, have been pulling out what Peter calls my "pamphlets". Little sections that have stuck together despite the book itself falling apart. I pull out "707-742" and read it, put it back and pull out "743-757". Some pamphlets are much small than others. That's what happens when a stupid leak-proof sippy cup leaks in your purse and your beloved copy of Anna Karenina gets soaked...and then you keep reading it and toting it around until it actually breaks.
But, really. The point of this is that this time around, instead of annoying me endlessly, the character of Dolly has been like a bosom friend to me. It all started when Lily started biting and pinching and hitting anything that came withing biting/pinching/hitting distance. I was embarassed and horrified. The day that (looking back) I consider the "height" of this behavior, I was reading during her nap and came across Dolly seeing her kids fighting and hitting, feeling the exact way I was feeling:
"Something snapped in Darya Aleksandrovna's heart when she saw this. It was as if darkness had swooped down upon her life; she felt that these children of hers, that she was so proud of, were not merely most ordinary, but positively bad, ill-bred children, with coarse brutal propensities--wicked children."
It was just exactly it. Irrational, fleeting, but that was the feeling when your kid does something like that.
And now, today I am leaving for Boston, for a weekend with dear girlfriends. And as I read a couple nights ago, Dolly leaves her family to visit Anna for a bit. As she's travelling she thinks of the things she's free from as she travels...the children, the household, all the family worries. Then as she is there at Anna's she begins to find it strange, the absence of children in the daily life and starts to miss her own family so much. When she returns, she finds everything "particularly charming"!
Ah, Dolly. So complex, and here I am doing basically a very narrow "close reading" of her as solely a mother. But that's how it goes with art oftentimes. You find something that looks familiar and cling to it.