My son is nine. About a week ago, he discovered reading. Not that he didn’t know HOW to read, just that he would not choose to spend his time reading for pleasure. There was always something more important, more entertaining, more exciting to do than read. And then, he found The Book. We all have one. That one Book that made us stop, pause where we were, what we were doing, and sit down to read. The Book that took us to another land or another world. The Book that taught us how to let our imaginations roam free in a world described on paper but created in our own minds. The Book that will ALWAYS be better than the movie. The Book that we may return to time and again, not because we have forgotten what happens within the pages, but because we remember the sheer joy we felt the first time we entered that realm. The Book is different for each of us, but the results are the same. It is that one Book that turns us into Readers.
For my son, it is a book that takes place within the Minecraft realm. The characters are all taken from the game, but the adventure they go on is an original story created by the author. He took a couple of days to read the first one in the series, and then blew through the next two in a day each. And he shows no signs of slowing down. Luckily for both of us, there are several more books in this series, and a couple of other series by the same author. He will not run out of things to read. But watching him become absorbed into the world of his imagination began to stir some nostalgic feelings in me. I remembered those days of bumping into things and people in my own house because I would be trying to walk and read at the same time. Nights spent under the covers with a flashlight, WAY past bedtime, because I just wanted to read “one more chapter“.
One wall of our living room is lined with bookshelves, our own little home Library. It is about 15 feet long, 8 feet high, and packed with books. Some are kids books, no more than 32 pages, where every character seems to be a talking animal that figures out a way to solve the problem they are confronted with, usually with the help of their friends or a kind adult or parent. Others are textbooks from my and my husband’s college years. Most are novels, biographies, and other “adult” books that we have picked up over the years, read maybe once or twice, and then they have found a permanent home on the shelf. But one end of the shelf is devoted solely to my Book Collection. Books that have been handed down or given to me by parents, grandparents, or other relatives. These are books that have been part of the fabric of my life for as long as I can remember. The Nancy Drew books I was given as a child when my mother signed me up for a “Book of the Month” club. The Cherry Ames books that were my mother’s (along with the other, missing volumes I have acquired thanks to ebay). The small, slim, red volumes of Shakespeare’s love plays – “Romeo & Juliet” and “Antony & Cleopatra” – that my great-grandparents (teachers, both) gave to one another as tokens of their affection. Books that were published long before I, my mother, or (in some cases) even my grandmother were born. Some of these books I have read over and over again. Some I have never opened, and never will, but can’t seem to part with. Some are in such fragile, delicate condition, that I keep the book, but if I want to read it I find an electronic version I can download to a tablet. But, in all of them, I have found friendship, solace, comfort, adventure, wisdom, joy, fear, longing, and happiness.
I stood in front of this shelf today, just perusing the titles. Seeing books I hadn’t thought about in a while brought a smile to my face. Each title evoked images in my mind of setting, characters, or action. Nancy trapped in the back of the moving van. Plato, standing in his robes between marble columns, dispensing wisdom for the ages. Sherlock working out the intricacies of a mystery while playing the violin. Jo corralling a herd of boys, trying to instill in them the lessons and values that will make them Little Men. Lincoln, in a distinctively un-presidential tent, within earshot of the battlefield, struggling over whether the choices he is making are the right ones. Wynken, Blynken, and Nod sailing in their wooden shoe. And Dorian, standing tall, looking as young and handsome as ever, while the portrait in the attic evolves into a contorted, grotesque version of its former image.
All of these books have helped to fashion who I am today, and I am grateful for them. I could spend hours talking about books, but right now, I have to go – Cherry is about to board the train for nursing school.
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