Thursday, May 12, 2005
What I Wouldn't Do For A Good Book
I never could understand why my kids were always wanting to hang out with me when they were growing up. As with most people of my generation, I would have done anything NOT to have to be around adults when I was a kid. Probably because a lot of the things we did would not have met with the approval of most of the adults we knew! My sister Iris is three years younger than me and, and we were always sneaking off to play in the woods or to tramp along the railroad tracks or to cross a busy forbidden street alone because I simply HAD to go to that used book store on the other side.

It's funny because I can remember mentally calculating that whole used book store thing in my head. Chances were good (especially if Iris was with me) that I would get caught and have the holy hell beat out of me, but I weighed that against the armful of books I would be able to get. I wasn't worried about having the books taken away from me because I would use the old standby argument that I was reading them for book reports. In my experience adults always felt vaguely uneasy about refusing to let a kid read and of course schoolwork could NEVER be denied.

They did try taking books away from me once. That lasted about a day. I drove everyone insane by sitting and just staring at them and refusing to play or move or speak until they finally caved in and gave them back to me.

Now that I think about it, I truly was consumed by this obsession with books. I hoarded lunch money and used it to order books from my Weekly Reader magazine. If Iris and I were given money to see a movie, I'd convince her that the same money could buy 4 books apiece at the drug store, and we could own them FOREVER. If that didn't convince her, I start talking about all the candy she could buy with her share. That usually did the trick.

I think one of the worst beatings I got came from my habit of sneaking books into bed with me at night. My aunt made us go to bed ridiculously early, and I never could go to sleep. I didn't have a flashlight, but I did have this tabletop ceramic owl nightlight. If I lifted off the owl part, it was just a nightlight in a stand. I worried about the light being seen under the crack of the door, so I had to hide it under the sheets while I read.

Unfortunately one night I was so engrossed in my book that I forgot to hold the sheets away from the light and burned a hole right through them. My aunt picked that moment to open the door to check on us, caught a whiff of the burning smell and found the holes. The next thing I knew I was on the floor being whacked senseless by a leather belt my aunt kept especially for that purpose, while Iris stared wide-eyed over her blankets, sobbing. I learned my lesson that night and saved up to buy a little flashlight.

God I was stubborn! I was firmly convinced I would simply die without books and felt the adults (namely my aunt) were dull and stupid and wrong for not having the same passion. I never could understand why adults had these wonderful collections of books on their shelves that they never read but wouldn't allow you to touch either. And I would completely flip out if someone cracked the spine of one of my books by bending it around itself or leaving it open faced on a table.

Then there were those blasted Reader's Digest editions grown-ups were so fond of. Why the heck would anyone want to read a story that was all chopped up and not the way the author wrote it? Disgusting. Reader's Digest books were definitely an adult concept.

Anyone who reads to children knows that if you try to shorten or change a favorite story, kids will always call you on it and make you change it back. Always. It goes against that unwritten rule that you don't mess with the magic.

Memories and musings shared by Juno
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I'm a 40-something writer, artist, and Jill-of-All-Trades. For me, magic is looking at the ordinary and seeing the extraordinary. My writing tends to take me to unexpected places--not so surprising when I think about it. I had an unusual growing up and have always chosen the offbeat over the "safe". I prefer interesting people over beautiful ones, and I am fascinated by people's stories. What I love most about life is its glorious imperfections and fantastic plot twists.

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