Memory – My Father’s Office (Reading and Comprehension Activity)

Reptiles – M. C. Escher, 1943

When I was a child, I spent a lot of time in my father’s office. I remember it so clearly. When I close my eyes and think of it, I recall every detail. It is as if I were there again, a child fascinated by the bizarre world of adults.

My father had an Escher poster that I would look at for hours. I remember it like it was yesterday, and I still wonder at it.

An entire wall of my father’s office was just for books, and even that wasn’t enough, because there were books everywhere. Books about biology, psychology, history, a whole world of ideas packed into a single room. There was a big window overlooking the campus. There were beautiful, old, stone buildings and huge, green trees. But what I always noticed were the pigeons that lived on the window sill. I chuckled at their self-important, silly way of walking, and admired their soft, pretty feathers and their absolute freedom.

What I loved most about dad’s office was his desk. There was a bird skull, and I would compare it to the living birds outside. It was so white, so small and fragile in death. I was proud, when I dared to pick it up and my father trusted me not to break it. There was a whole rat’s brain, each slice encased in a slide so you could flip through it, like reading a book. Paperclips, paperweights, and piles and piles of paper. My father’s desk was a map I couldn’t quite read, a wonderful, terrible land that was always changing.

My father’s office, with its graphs, charts and lists, the smell of stale coffee and formaldehyde, leather and cigar. I can see it in my mind’s eye, and I’m able to visit my father’s office even now, when it no longer exists.

Activity: Look at the image and read the text twice, and then try to answer the questions without looking.

1.) Draw what you recall of the poster in two minutes, and compare it with what others remember. Work as a group to create an image that is as similar as possible to the original.

2.) Describe the desk. What was on it?

3.) What did the writer see outside the office window?

4.) Where were the books in the office? What were they about?

5.) What did the office smell like? What can you gather about the writer’s father from these smells?

6.) Your turn! Tell us about a special place that you remember.