I couldn’t believe my eyes. There it was, lying on the floor, a blast from my past.
It stopped me in my tracks. I’d know that cover anywhere. We’d been cleaning the attic and out of no where it appeared. I hadn’t seen it in years, didn’t know I still had it. It was the first book I chose to read, from start to finish, on my own. That is, I wasn’t forced. This was BIG. I hated to read in grade school. It was torture. I didn’t see the point. I would much rather run with the boys, climb a tree, or better yet, jump out of one and do it all over again. Reading was a complete waste of time. B-O-R-R-R-ing.
We’ve been on a mission, the husband and I. We were fighting the our-son-returns-from-Vietnam-soon clock and preparing the upper attic. After weeks of endless sorting and cleaning I saw the floors. Dust flew as we continued to purge. Suddenly there it was, my favorite childhood book. I knew it in that instant. I recalled my affection for the book, how much I loved it. My heart swelled. I think I smiled. Never mind that I’d completely forgotten the plot; what counts is that I remember how much I loved it (whatever it said).
Later that day as I recalled the book, my mind wandered back in time. It was the mid 60s. It was
required we take weekly trips to the library. Can you believe that?! We had to line up single file first. The place was cold. We had to spread out and sit at long, tan-colored tables covered with pencil marks. The librarian was crabby. We had to be quiet. It reeked. It was where that kid Lonnie would, on a regular basis, cough up something disgusting, take aim, and shoot out the contents at whomever he pleased (1). He shot at me once. He missed. No wonder I hated the place.
One day, while sitting far away from Lonnie, I looked over at the book shelf next to my table. I spied a possibility. Well, I thought, if I can choose the book, maybe this reading thingy won’t be so bad. I looked for low word count. I wasn’t going to read anything thicker than a fourth of an inch. I wasn’t stupid. I picked a very thin book with a brown horse on the cover. Every week for the allotted time, I took out that book and followed the story, mindful of Lonnie and avoiding The Crab.
Before I realized it I began to enjoy the story. Something interesting was happening and I liked what I was reading. Not that I was reading, but what I was reading. I began to look forward to coming in, single file or not, Lonnie or not, to see what happened next. I had no idea at the time, but I was hooked and I wanted to finish. Besides, I’d sacrificed coveted play time–time better spent in a tree–because I had to (did I mention I’d been forced?). Oh, no. I wasn’t stopping now. I’d started something and I was in for the 128-page long haul.
I finished a book (2). I actually read a whole school book. Me. Karen. I did it!!! Oh, I’d been reading. By this time, I’d been reading for years. But this! This was different. I chose the story. I’d begun at the beginning, read it through, and finished it, down to the last period. I had never done this. I recall sitting at my pencil-marked table, looking around the room, filled with pride. It was quite an accomplishment. I was seven.
Inside the front cover I noticed something else: I started writing book reviews many years ago. My BFF Cherie agreed with my scholarly assessment.
It’s probably OK to let you in on something else. This isn’t my writing, but someone else was aware that I was in love.
This would be Donny Osmond. We were very tight. To this day I’m certain he pines for me. Cherie begged me to “like” David Cassidy, but no. Donny was the man. Come to think of it, in second grade she begged me to like Robert M. instead of Robert F. Robert M. was OK, but again…Robert F. was THE man. I respect her willingness to share, but sometimes you gotta stand your ground.
Without giving away the plot I’ll leave you with one last temptation: the back cover.
Be careful, though. “You will cry and get very interested.”
(1) Absolutely and disgustingly true. Years ago he tried to strike up a conversation on FB, like we’re pals. My memory is long and sometimes accurate. He’s been blocked.
(2) At my request, my parents later purchased the book.