When I was a kid, I read and I read. I read any book I could get my little filthy hands on. At one point my mother had to restrict my reading time because I was ignoring everything else going on around me. I would open a book, read just a few lines and then be absolutely lost in the story. I traveled through space and time on a tesseract. I ran along the streets of Brooklyn with Francie and Neeley. I cried so hard I had to put the book down when old Dan and little Ann met their fate (I have never fully recovered from this). I read Gone With the Wind simply because it was the biggest book I had ever seen. It didn’t stop there. The first time I read “It” I had to put the book outside my bedroom and shut the door every single night. I refused to sleep in the same room where Pennywise could crawl snarling and laughing out of the covers at any moment (I was nine…..where were you on that one mom). My nightlight was taken away because I wasn’t sleeping and I wasn’t scared of the dark (well except during the Pennywise debacle). I was reading.
I was an incredibly shy child. That paired with the fact that we lived just far enough outside of town that riding my bike there was a no no, I had a lot of time to myself. I had my brother of course (love you!) but still I spent the majority of my childhood lost in other worlds. The tunnel vision and focus I had on books was kind of amazing. I heard none of the things going on around me. Often my mother would have to snap her fingers in my face after yelling to get my attention before I was even vaguely aware she was present. For me, there is absolutely nothing like the smells and overall feeling of a library. Our small town library (at least as I remember it) was dark and creaky. It was an older building. Walking along the aisle, I would run my fingers along the spines of the books and inhale deeply. The smell of rows upon rows of books was intoxicating and calming. To the people reading this that have the same love of books that I do know exactly what I am talking about. The smells, the knowledge that soon you were going to be able to take a journey, to discover new characters, people, worlds and that most likely you were going to bond with these characters in ways that last forever. The few I mentioned in the paragraph above, I will always remember. I still have my original copy of “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle. I read and re-read that book so many times. The pages have yellowed, there are tears in the cover, my childish signature is scrawled on the inside cover. It is old, it is falling apart, but it is by far one of my favorite posessions. It was like I knew the characters in the book. I related to Meg on so many levels. I felt weird, I felt ugly, I had no clue how to make friends, and I was awkward in every possible way. Reading about her, how she felt about herself, how others saw her, and the incredible inner strength that she had was inspiring even at a young age.
I am now trying to pass on my love of reading to my children. Just a few years ago, I bought new copies of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia and the hobbit for my oldest son. He devours books in much the same way I do. Just now I pulled my copy of a Wrinkle in Time off of the shelf to use for the cover photo of this blog. My son asked why I needed it. I explained and then smelled the book. Holding it out to him, he smelled it as well and stated, “That is the best smell in the world” without prompting. I am so happy he has found this love for reading.
During this time I have seen so many people talking about how their children are suddenly around all of the time and they do not know what to do with themselves. Read to them. Don’t just read to them, take them on a journey. Do it as a family even. Paint them a beautiful picture with their imaginations using your tone, combined with the words on the paper. No kids? Paint yourself that picture. Lose yourself in the words of countless talented story tellers. Go to other worlds, lose yourself in someone else’s reality for a while. Take a break from this one, even if only for a little while. A silly little fantasy of mine has always been to read a book together with my husband. Out Loud. Then for both of us to get lost in the story together. The closest we have gotten is to read the same book series at the same time and discuss it after the fact. Maybe eventually he will humor me, but in the mean time I will take what I can
I truly and honestly believe that being a reader has taught me more about the human condition than anything else in my life. I believe it has made me a more empathetic person and taught me how fleeting everything is. Therefore you need to enjoy every single moment you can because what is happening to you now will be gone in an instant. If you really think about it you can break your own life up into chapters. People you know and love are suddenly gone when that chapter is over. The circumstances that lead you there and that occurred there have come to a close and left you a different person in some way. One can look back on some chapters with fondness, longing, and an aching for a time and people that were once the biggest players in your life. That time has come to a close and will never come to fruition again much to our own torment. Then there are the chapters that you would happily glue, staple, tack, superglue, burn, and throw into the deepest darkest holes just so you never have to think about them ever again. What kind of chapter are you writing right now in your life?
In closing, send me the titles of your favorite books! From childhood, from adulthood, I don’t really care from what time frame but I want to know about them. What you loved about them and what you hated. I would love as always to hear from you.