A good story. A good book. I’ve always savored those moments – from the days of a flashlight under the covers late at night…to now…when my eyes close despite the glow of the bedside lamp.
Page corners folded. Neon post-it flags stuck in places to return to. Aha! sentences marked in pencil.
My favorites? The ones with characters who mirror my hopes…fears…life challenges. Or my possibilities…the “what ifs”…
From an early age, I looked forward to stories. An alternate universe of adventure I could only dream about as a young girl. It was unheard of to strive for independence as a boy would…well, except for Nancy Drew. She had remarkable success. It was exhilarating.
Years later, my chosen books lengthened. The topics expanded.
Elizabeth Berg emerged as one of my favorite authors. I met her at several book signings when she lived in the northeast. Her stories are treasures to savor, but one in particular – The Pull of the Moon – struck a chord like no other. It is one of the few books I have read multiple times. The main character – Nan – writes letters to her husband while she’s on a solo road trip…as she explores what it means to age. Looking forward and looking back. As she turns 50. The book is a journal of sorts.
Books have been an indispensable part of my life – and my life story – since the days of Dick and Jane. The classic first grade learn-how-to-read “Primer” of the 1950s.
After I learned to read, there was no stopping me. A flashlight under the covers at night until I finished a chapter…or two.
Books and stories were often my escape hatch from real life. The Scholastic Book Club in grammar school supplied countless thin paperback story books that multiplied on my shelves at home. Hardcover Nancy Drew mysteries soon followed.
I was fascinated by the biographies of “famous people” at the school library. Of course I believed they were all true depictions of historically significant Americans. However, thinking back, I realize that women and non-white “famous people” were drastically underrepresented. Hopefully that is changing.
As I went through high school, I discovered paperback novels. The thicker the better. In college, I was a member of the Doubleday Book Club for several years – a mail order monthly deal. Later…the actual Book of the Month Club. Vacations always included long stops browsing at local bookstores.
A few books from my childhood survived the drastic downsizing-of-hundreds-of-books that took place 3 years ago when we sold our home. Letting go of books was probably the most difficult “letting go” I ever did.
Despite the massive book purging, I still needed to buy a bookshelf for condo life. There were just too many books I had to keep! They are shelved two deep. In no particular order. After taking the photo for this challenge, I realized I should organize them by subject or author or something. They represent my life stages…all jumbled together.
Scaling down the sheer volume when we moved forced some tough decisions. It is interesting to notice which ones made the cut. They used to be spread out all over the house in different places. Now all in one room…crammed together as if competing for an important spot.
I have read most of them, but there are many I look forward to starting. The anticipation is still exciting.
The only book I have bought since we moved here was Becoming by Michelle Obama.
Mother Goose Rhymes, Grandma Moses’ poems, Little Golden Books, Nancy Drew’s many adventures, the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Belden, Pippi Longstocking….
All stories I craved as a child. Gobbling them up one after the other.
Curiosity. Escape. Imagination.
Or maybe because I loved to read.
Storybooks drew me in as nothing else could.
My public elementary school was part of the Scholastic Books program. Students could order paperback books for 25¢ or 35¢ each. Sized just right for a 10 year old with titles such as Encyclopedia Brown…Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine…Just Plain Maggie. To name just a few. Piled high on tables in the gym on delivery day. I couldn’t wait.
The school library drew me to its stories as well. Shelves of biographies…”Childhoods of Famous Americans”…were a magnet. Hardcover books mostly about boys (Nathan Hale & Abe Lincoln come to mind), but I did find some about girls. Clara Barton. Helen Keller. Dolly Madison. I didn’t discriminate at the age of 10 or 11 or 12. I read them all. Fascinated by their life stories.
Only famous people had their stories told…at least that’s what I may have assumed. But perhaps it sparked my own urge for story telling. At least in the privacy of my diaries. And letters. Later, the journals kept in college and beyond. Recording my story such as it was. Often painful. And hard to believe. Even upon reading years later. The telling…written for my eyes only…crucial. Therapeutic. I see that now. Important…even though I certainly wasn’t famous.
Years later I filled notebooks with anecdotes, observations…and stories yet again. But this time about my own children. And our family, as it grew and changed…and then grew and changed some more. A natural continuation of my childhood storytelling. About what happened.
This time, though, joyful. Still striving to capture the essence in a quick pair of sentences…or a paragraph. One page. Maybe two. The setting. The conversation. The humor. The love. The challenges. The delight.
Catching the stories on the page before one day wove into the next. Leaving me breathless to get it on paper. Their imaginations. Their curiosity. And uniqueness. From foot stomping “do by self” episodes to impromptu conversations about “where do babies come from?” To shopping for clothes. Playing with imaginary basketball teams in the driveway. Getting ready for school. Accidentally shaving off half an eyebrow. Navigating the minefield that is adolescence. How a seven year old plans the future. In her own imaginative way.
Endless stories every day. I wrote when I could. So glad I did.
We are, after all, our stories.
This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #37: Story
I am happy to report…at least in the town I live in, there is a living, breathing…book store!
Alive and well for decades. Selling books, magazines, greeting cards, note cards and all sorts of fun reading paraphernalia. For adults and children alike. Browsers welcome. Book signings. Book Groups.
Surviving as an actual independent book store in this digital and Amazon age is admirable. And a testament to Shop Local.