Monday, August 3, 2009
There’s a man at the dog park who is originally from Indiana like me, and every time he sees me he yells, “Hey, Paoli!” (I'm from Paoli, IN.) We’ve had some interesting conversations over the past year because our political and religious views couldn’t be more opposite. But I don’t really mind. He obviously likes to talk, and he thinks opposing opinions are amusing. Most recently, our conversation led to the safer topic of books. Now that’s a conversation I can get into.
I grew up always with my “nose in a book,” as Mom would constantly complain when I tried to read during dinner. But she didn’t really mind, because she gave me my love of literature, starting by reading me books such as Goodnight, Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, and reciting James Whitcomb Riley poetry she’d memorized when she was a kid. I was always excitedly scared by her rendition that ended “…and the gobblins’ll getcha if you don’t watch out!”
When I was young, Mom bought me the first of the Little House on the Prairie books. Every time I finished one, we made a special trip to the Bloomington mall, where I was allowed to purchase the next book in the series. And on New Year’s Day 1984, just after I turned thirteen, we sat together on our blue living room sofa as Mom began to read aloud the book 1984, beginning many deep discussions about its meaning. To this day, I’m disgusted when people think Big Brother refers to the TV show instead of George Orwell.
I was very lucky to have excellent English teachers in high school, including the eccentric Ruth Uyesugi, who taught Senior English. In fact, Mrs. U, as we called her, taught English for so many years that my mother had her for Senior English, as did all my aunts and uncles. Mrs. U made Literature seem scandalous and exciting, introducing us to novels that included incest, insanity, or murder. We thought we were getting away with something in her class, when it was actually just her master plan of giving us a lifelong love of reading.
When people see the huge library of books I have in our front room, I always tell them, “I buy books like most women buy clothes.” And I can’t resist the possibilities inside a new book. Certain books have a cozy feel to them, making you want to stroke their covers like a cat. And an old book’s musty smell brings back childhood memories of rainy days, curled up with an afghan and a book on a lazy Saturday.
I still have all the books from my childhood, and someday I look forward to sharing them with my children, introducing them one at a time, like precious gifts. They are, after all, aren’t they?