Part II or The Quixotic Adventures of Vanessa and Ava

Well, Ava and I have finished Part One of Don Quixote. 434 pages in 4 months. It took a lot longer than we had planned. We thought we would be finishing the entire book by the end of February and here we are with 457 pages still to go. It is true that the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. But, we remain undaunted and remain committed to finishing the book before we leave for Spain in April.  I can’t help but continue to see a correlation between our journey and that of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Don Quixote with his impossible ideas and grand plans. Sancho Panza always reminding him of what cannot be. Don Quixote cajoling Sancho Panza into following along by promising him great rewards of unspeakable value. Sancho Panza falling for it. I wonder if Ava sees the similarities as well?  That’s not to imply that either I or Don Quixote do not believe that great rewards are to be had from completing each of our journeys, but let’s just say that the perspective of one who is driving is different than that of the passenger.  The passenger has no choice but to go along for the ride. The passenger can choose to make the most of the experience or close her eyes and sleep through it.  I do mean to imply that at times during this experience Ava has been skeptical of the purpose of this endeavor.  I realize that it is a lot to ask of a twelve year old to labor through a 900 page tome such as Don Quixote. I realize that we could have read an adaptation for young readers or just rented The Man of La Mancha and called it a day.  I also realize that life does not always afford us the luxury of taking a true adventure.  We don’t often get an opportunity to venture out of our comfort zone and into the unknown.  Two years from now, Ava will be back sitting at a desk learning along with her peers. She will love it I am sure, but I am not sure that she will ever again have the same level of freedom to explore the world that she has now, to take on a challenge like this one and see it through to completion. I am trying to show her a different reality, which is precisely what Don Quixote is doing. She has the choice to make the most of it or sleep through it. Some days it is hard to be motivated. Some days we stare at the two giant books on the table and wish that they would spontaneously burst into flames.  Some days we’ll do anything to avoid reading, even laundry and dishes. But when we begrudgingly pick up the monsters and read them, we are almost always happy we did it.  We laugh at the irreverent and baudy Sancho Panza and marvel in wonder at the romantic and unbelievable Don Quixote. Sometimes, we can’t wait to share some funny incident with the rest of the family at dinner and we’ll fight over who gets to tell it.  Once in a while we make a historical or literary connection between the book and something else we’ve read or seen and feel that the whole world just shrunk in that instance and we can spin it in our hand like a toy. That is a great feeling.  Then there are the times when we are stumped.  Sometimes we just can’t figure out what the book is trying to say.  Is Don Quixote smart or dumb? Is he supposed to be the hero or the clown? It is clear that Cervantes is making some sort of comment on society, but what is it? Just when we think we’ve pinned it down, another chapter turns that idea on it’s head. Even though the novel is amazingly relatable for a 400 year old book, it still is farce, satire and parody of pre 17th century Spain, so it is not always so easy for us to figure out. But we are figuring it out together, sort of like the Goonies with Chester Copperpot’s treasure map.  So far the treasure remains elusive but the feeling of possibility hangs so thick in the air each day. For me, I am loving the time spent with Ava. Just the two of us. Getting to know each other better, helping each other understand. The hard days when we push ourselves are rewarding but the days when we decide to cuddle up and watch a movie together instead are just as important to me. And so we begin Part II of our journey with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza and we commit to stretch our minds, consider other realities, reflect on our own lives and follow this new path, remembering what Cervantes himself said, 

“Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.”




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