I don’t remember when I learned to read. I do recall that my first grade teacher proudly boasted that I was the youngest kid in the class (I was) and her best reader (I was). I admit it. I have no shame.
There’s a film my Dad took of me when I was a kid, sitting on the potty and reading a large picture book that extended over my legs. I looked up, gave him the stink-eye, and returned to my book, deliberately turning a page. Oh, please, don’t let that video still exist.
I was the first-born, and many of the stereotypes one associates with first-borns definitely apply to me. Bossy. Driven. Type A (except when all of a sudden I turn into a Type L, for lazy, which means I’m sitting playing Zen Bejeweled III and watching Criminal Minds on my laptop, although wouldn’t that mean I’m multi-tasking, which would make me still Type A? Enquiring minds want to know).
I was also desperately hungry for attention, and I found it in books. I made friends in those books. Anne of Green Gables, What’s-her-name from An Unwilling Vestal, Scarlett O’Hara, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden. I got attention from grown-ups when they saw me toting around books that were patently age-inappropriate.Why yes, I am actually reading The Decline and Fall of the Third Reich, thank you very much. That meant I was a bit of a swot, and never had more than one or two people at school who actually liked me. And I heartily apologise to all of my former classmates for being a swot and teacher’s pet (except when I wasn’t, viz., Mrs. Daniels in 5th grade, but we’re not going there).
You remember in the filmHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, when Dumbledore announces that final exams will be canceled, and Hermione is distressed by that fact? Yeah. (Unless it’s math or science, where I appreciate the beauty and elegance but am completely unable to do it, in which case, cancel away, peeps.)
I’ve sometimes wondered what a list of every book I’ve ever read in my entire life would look like. Well, it’d be hella long, for starters. It would include Beverly Cleary’s oeuvre, Louise May Alcott, Charles Dickens (not all, though. He’s tough to take sometimes), the Betsy-Tacy books, Anne of Green Gables, as afore-mentioned. It would include quite a few books of a religious nature. Everything F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, wrote. Agatha Christie. Ngaio Marsh. Dorothy L. Sayers, who went far too soon because I am SO not finished with the story of Lord Peter Wimsey (and yes, I’ve read the sequels written by Jill Paton Walsh, and they’re good, but it’s not the same). John Bellairs–some of his books scared me to death as a kid, and even now I find them quite creepy. Sherlock Holmes.
When I was 12 and had to go into the hospital to have my tonsils removed, the only way my mother was able to reconcile me to the surgery, in addition to the promise of all the ice cream I could eat, was by taking me to the used book store and letting me get a whole bag of books. It worked.
My point here is that of the few constants I’ve had in my life, books were one of the greatest. Jane Eyre was Jane Eyre, whether I was in Georgia, Texas, Utah, Minnesota. And there was always a book to suit my mood.
What part have books played in your life? Any that really stand out for you? What’s your reading history like?