I was born in a library.
Naw. Not really. But I could’ve been.
Books prominently populate my earliest memories. Lots and lots of books. Enough to fill a library several times over.
I remember snuggling into Dad’s lap as he read aloud about a brown monkey and a man in a yellow hat. I remember Mom reading and re-reading a perennial favorite, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Also stories about a runaway bunny. Ferdinand the bull. Green eggs and ham. A secret garden. A spider weaving webbed words. Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, Cinderella, Aesop and Dorothy Gale. So many others.
As far as “learning to read” goes, it seems I was born reading. I suppose I received academic instruction at some point. I just don’t recall being “taught” to read. In fact, I can’t remember ever not reading. It’s like not breathing.
Weekly visits to the library with Mom added fuel to my bookish fire. I’ve long thought of the library as my “home away from home.” Many are the cozy hours and golden afternoons spent browsing the library stacks, meandering in and out of Dickens, Bronte, Dinesen and Evans. Finding new books or a new author is like unearthing buried treasure. To this day I prefer a good book – or even a mediocre one – to any other media. I am never as well content as when behind the pages of a good book.
Innings and Acts
Whenever I’m sitting down, I feel compelled to be reading something. Anything. Even the back of a cereal box. I bring books to baseball games, to the chagrin of my kids. I tell them I read between innings. And I do. I bring a book to the dentist’s office, board meetings, ballet rehearsals. If I anticipate a line at the post office, grocery store or bank, I bring a book. Shoot, I usually bring a book even if I don’t anticipate a line. I’ve also been known to read between acts at the opera and until the house lights dim at the theatre. An apt epitaph might be: “So many books, so little time…”
Like I said, not reading is like not breathing.
A Grand Adventure
I recently embarked upon a grant reading adventure that, while unplanned, has proven a vast delight. I’m re-reading some of my favorite titles from childhood. I’ve haven’t travelled between the covers of some of my grade school favorites for forty years or more. They are somehow welcoming. Calling me home. Even after all these years, plots and characters rise to greet me like a long lost friend. After a chapter or two, I am home.
I’ve long maintained that some of the finest writing in all literature is Children’s Literature. Any writer who can grab and keep a child’s attention for an entire story is doing something right. And so “home” these days includes wild ponies and round-ups of Misty of Chincoteague. Prairie fires, rampaging grasshoppers, scarlet fever, and Christmas candy in the Little House books. Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. Aslan and Narnia. Black Beauty. Peter and Wendy.
I’ve gathered them around me now, favorite books from years past. You’d think the stories would all be fuzzy, gray. They’re not! They’re as rich and vibrant and glowing as they were when I first creased their pages. Still captivating. Still delicious. I feel that while I may have forgotten these books, their stories have not forgotten me. When I open the cover and dive into their patient pages, I find they’ve been waiting for me. Dear friends welcoming me back.
It feels like coming “home.”
Many libraries and book stores host a “Summer Reading Program.” Have you signed up? What are you reading goals for the summer?