I wrote this piece in 2017 when I took a creative writing class. This piece reminds me of my fond love of reading. I think this is a lovely way to start the new year. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you are reading in 2020. Send me an email!
I have been reading since I was three. There are pictures of me less than a year old looking at books, looking at the newspaper, looking at magazines. I never felt like I belonged anywhere unless I was reading something. As a preschooler I would go to my grandmas for sleepovers. I would pack my red quilted bag with my teddy bear and my favorite doll and books. I don’t ever remember not being with a book. I learned to read sitting on the floor of the bathroom while my father got ready for work. It is one of my fondest memories of him. I remember how he would teach me to take a big deep breath at the commas, to stop completely at the periods, to raise my voice at an exclamation point, to change my tone at the question marks. I loved reading with him. I loved reading all the time. By first grade I was reading on a ninth grade reading level.
As a kid I still took a book with me everywhere. My best friend Margaret and I would lie in her bed for hours and hours reading back and forth at each other. We would read the Mr. Happy books, we read the Hobbit to each other. We would each take a page and pass the book back and forth. We did that into Junior High.
I keep track of my life based on when I read certain books. Books mark my years. The Secret Garden was my favorite in second grade, I think I read it 40 times that year. In third grade I read Watership Down. In sixth grade I read Gone with the Wind. In seventh grade I started sneaking my mom’s VC Andrews books into my room and I would devour them. In eighth grade I started reading Stephen King. Every word, every page, every new world was a place that I could escape to and pretend that my life wasn’t happening outside my bedroom door. I remember the first time I read Anne Rice’s true erotic tales of Sleeping Beauty-I have never been more turned on in my life than I was by those books.
My favorite places to read were dependent on my location. I carved a nook out of my grandparents shrubs in their front yard and built a bed when I was in first grade. My little fingers would gently peel away the branches until I could almost stand up in my secret space. My grandpa gave me his old work blankets from the garage. My grandma would pack me little snacks and give me milk to take with me on my reading journey. I found out decades later that the people who bought my grandparents house had those shrubs removed, my blankets were still there.
At my aunties house there was an abandoned tree house down the ravine behind their house. The same system applied. I cleared away all the leaves and dirt, got old blankets from my uncle, packed some snacks. I would venture down into the trees with my auntie reminding me to watch for deer and skunks. I would lay there for hours reading with the quaking aspen and oak tree leaves clinking against each other in a chorus of happy song, gently rocking me into the glorious escape of another world.
When I am reading nothing else matters. There is no fighting, no beatings, no anger, no shit. When I am reading I can fall in love and fall out of love, I can shoot fire at the people I don’t like, I can become miniature and live in a doll house. I can have sex or not have sex, I can go on adventures with my best friend, I can become best friends with my dog and the old man down the street. I can learn about myself and have endless conversations in my head about whether or not I would make those same decisions. I can think oh my god that girl is so stupid, can’t she see what she is doing or god I wish I could be that woman she is so amazing, I want to be just like her when I grow up.
When I pretend to be somewhere else I devour a book. I can still read a book a day if I have the opportunity to do so and I have continued to read everyday even though I am getting my PhD. When I was waiting for my love to come back to me I read the Hunger Games series in three days, I read the second book in 5 hours. When I am in the last 100 pages of a book my family knows not to talk to me. My kids know to ask if I am almost done and they know not to interrupt. My husband is now completely familiar with my hand rising to stop him from talking while I am reading.
I have only not finished a book two times in my entire life. Even if it sucks I am compelled to finish it, you never know if the author is finally gonna get it together. Books are freedom. Books are things that people give birth to so that other people can read what is inside their head.
I love smoking cigarettes while drinking tea, reading. I love reading on the toilet. If there isn’t a book to read in the bathroom I will read lotion bottles, soap bottles, the words on the toilet paper roll holder. I love reading in bed before I fall asleep. I love reading sex novels on the bus, squirming and turned on in front of strangers. I love reading while I am stuck at a stop light and can think of a thousand times I had to pull over to read what was going to happen next. I do not have a reader. It isn’t reading if you aren’t holding the book, holding the book IS the escape.