Tara Adornetto in one of her favorite roles: a member of the Mom Squad
“Love you, Mommy, to the moon and back,” reads the gift tag attached to a framed print of the Velveteen Rabbit. Under the Rabbit are these words, “Once you are real, you can’t become unreal again. IT LASTS FOR ALWAYS.”
Tara Adornetto’s youngest daughter, Lili, gifted her with that print this Christmas. It’s a testimony to the strong love in Tara’s family. That’s a love that is expressed in words, and that is anchored in Tara’s deep love of books.
Tara coordinates Tech Prep at Zane State College in Zanesville, Ohio. She is a gifted, student-centered professional, and this job, a new position for her, gives her the chance to work directly with students. Tara believes in the transformative power of education. It’s a power that has propelled her down a successful, but not always easy, path.
When Tara was in fourth grade she was betrayed and deeply scarred by an adult relative. The abuse left her feeling isolated, ashamed, and dirty. It tore her once-close family apart. Ten years old, she searched for comfort, consolation, and support. She found all three in books.
“I was always searching for that knight in white armor,” Tara, that lover of story, says now. She found that kind of valiant support in The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe, the CS Lewis classic about displaced children who discover their own amazing potential. And she found it in real life, too, in the support of her brother, who discovered Tara’s abuse and revealed her abuser.
Grownup siblings Tara and Brian
Throughout her life, Tara says, those knights have always shown up when she needed them. Her brother, of course. Her husband Anthony, who was at her side through medical procedures that addressed the long-term physical effects of her abuse. Supervisors who saw her potential and pushed her to go farther. Friends who encouraged her dreams.
And always, the books she needed arrived when she needed them, too.
If she had to pick a home-run book, Tara says, it would be The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Kate Di Camillo’s story of an expensive toy rabbit who is ripped from his posh home and sent out into a rough, often unwelcoming, world buoyed her as a child. Edward was a survivor. Tara was, too, and the book has great meaning for her. It is one of the many books she shared with her daughters, Ava and Lili, as they were growing up.
Image taken from Amazon.com
Like the Velveteen Rabbit, Edward was scarred and dirtied, patched and abandoned. But his experiences made him very, very real, and allowed him to grow into a loving and compassionate creature.
Shel Silverstein had a voice that Tara loved to hear. Her fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Brown, read the class poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends, little by little, each day. Tara would wait for the reading time, soaking in Silverstein’s words. His humor, even though it was sometimes tinged with darkness, lifted the darkness for her. (She found that same kind of humor in the poem “Ladies and Jellyspoons,” which she can still recite verbatim today. http://www.st-stephens-school.org.uk/docs/Homework_Sheets/Y4_Ladles_and_jellyspoons.pdf) Silverstein’s story book, The Giving Tree, taught Tara, she says now, about “the power to heal.”
Tara’s parents didn’t have much money; her mother had to leave school to care for her family, and always felt badly that she couldn’t help her children with their homework. But she encouraged them, Tara remembers, to travel far beyond where she herself had been able to go.
Her mom always made sure Tara had books to read. They went to the library regularly, and whenever there was a little extra money, Tara’s mother bought books to add to her daughter’s library. Her grandmother, too, would scout out books at yard sales and at thrift stores. Some of their finds became stories that wove themselves into Tara’s life,–stories that she would share with her own daughters years later, and that she recommends to others.
Those books include…
The Key to the Treasure by Peggy Parish. In this book, siblings Liza, Bill, and Ted solve a family mystery when they summer with their grandparents. They unravel clues and face danger, and they emerge triumphant.
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Mary Lennox survives the death of her parents and a long journey to stay with relatives she’s never met, and finds her way to friendship, joy, and meaning.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by EG Speare, is the story of another orphaned traveler. Kit is older than Mary, old enough to be considered a grownup, when her grandfather dies. She leaves her home in Barbados to travel to Connecticut and find the aunt she’s never met.
The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg, was a story that Tara’s beloved teacher, Nancy Corbett, read to her class. Tara loved the story, and the magic and the faith it involved. Years later, Mrs. Corbett, knowing how much the story meant to her, gave Tara the book—the same copy she’d read to the class years before, complete with its own magical jingle bell.
All the stories she loved, Tara realizes, involved courage and the overcoming of obstacles. Good things didn’t always happen to the protagonists, but they never gave up. Their brave efforts paid off as they battled their ways to happy lives.
It’s no surprise that Tara loves that kind of book; that’s her own story. A child who never gave up, a devoted wife and mother, a professional who insures the students she works with get the support and inspiration they need to succeed, Tara is a real-life hero.
And her story is a testimony to the power that books can bring to a child’s life, even when bad things happen. It tells us about the role that words can play in helping a valiant child find the support and faith she needs to overcome the darkness…to become real, with all the joy and sorrow and mystery that entails.