"I don't want to read and you can't make me!" I said to my mom. I could see her nostrils flare as she tried to control the anger that was so clearly marked on her face. She took a deep breath. This meant a compromise was about to take place. "Fine have it your way." she said "but, I was willing to pay you two dollars for every book you read." Crap, she had found my weakness...money. I took a moment to think about it so that I didn't seem to eager, "Fine, I'll do it." I said as I grabbed the book about Huckleberry Finn and headed to my room. I hate to read. I mean I absolutely loath it. I would much rather be outside playing on the trampoline or eating mud pies. What's so great about reading anyway?
I must have been around 11 when my mother and I had a conversation something like this. Little did I know, books would play a big role in my life as I got older. There is only one series of books that I willingly read growing up, and I'm saving that story for another time. Otherwise I continued to hate reading right up until my freshman year of high school. My high school was big enough to have three lunch schedules, lunch A, B, or C. I don't remember which one I was assigned, but I do know that I didn't have many friends with the same lunch I did. You must understand that I am painfully shy. I always have been and I always will be, so making new friends just wasn't an option for me. One day I decided I didn't want to sit in the cafeteria or in the hallway, and so I ventured to a corner of the school that I would have never willingly set foot in, the library. I walked in and to my surprise there were a lot of other kids in there. Some were talking loudly in little groups, others were on the computer, and a few were reading. It looked like the perfect place for me to escape the lunchroom. I didn't want to stick out so I decided to take a look around. I happened to stop in front of a shelf of books by Stephen King. I knew who this author was, but I had never read anything by him. I picked up the book Misery. It sounded interesting enough so I checked it out and sat on the couch to read. No one asked my name, no one asked where I was supposed to be. Everyone left me alone. This was the perfect place to hide out.
I started going to the library almost every day for lunch. I read Misery in two days, and immediately checked out It. When I brought that one home my mom was not thrilled. This was probably the only time in my life I ever heard her tell me to put a book down. I read It in a week. I then checked out Christine. Most of my lunch periods were now being spent in the library. Sometimes a group of rowdy upperclassmen would be in the library at the same time. I would occasionally watch them pick at each other or play on the computers. One of them had shoulder length blond hair and glasses. He was always the one that caught my attention. I think I liked the long hair. Years later that young man would be my husband. Mike never remembered seeing me there, but I remembered him.
I became obsessed with reading, but not just any kind of reading. I did however read every Stephen King book that our library had. I was so upset when I finished the last one. Books had become my escape. I could lose myself in the words, and my imagination would run wild. I could hide my face behind the pages and usually people would leave me alone. After Stephen King I moved on to Dean Koontz. I read everything our library had of his. As my high school years passed I moved from one author to the next. By my senior year I was picking up authors in other genres. There were many times I got in trouble at school because I would have my textbook open and propped up pretending to read, but really there was another book in front of the textbook, and I was reading that one. My poor teachers.
My love for reading continues still. Mike loved to read as well. We helped each other explore authors that we may not have on our own. I have to read every night or I can't sleep, and in college I could be found reading as I walked around campus. I don't think I will ever own a Nook or Kindle, and yes I've tried them. There is nothing like the feel of a book in my hands. I like flipping the pages and feeling the paper between my fingers. I like dog-earing the pages when I put the book down. Mike did not approve of me dog-earing my pages. He always used a bookmark of some kind, and would just shake his head at me. We always wanted a house big enough to have a library. We, well I guess I, have boxes and boxes of books in the garage just waiting for a shelf to sit on. Maybe I can make that happen when we move.
I went to Barnes and Noble the other day to look for a book, and ended up going through a plethora of emotions. I cried as I stood in the Fantasy/Science Fiction section and wondered what Mike would be reading if he were here. I was horrified as I thought about how we would never again lie in bed beside each other, both of us engrossed in what we were reading. I became angry as I picked up the book The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs by Christina Hopkinson, and read the synopsis:
"Mary Gilmour feels as though her life is going down a plug hole clogged with cornflakes and Play-Doh. Her job is part time but housework is full time, and she has no time at all for her two young sons. Mary is convinced that there is only one thing standing between her and organized contentment: his name is Joel and she's married to him. Since star charts have worked on improving the behavior of their children, she designs an equivalent for her husband: a spreadsheet detailing every balled-up tissue, every sock on the floor, every wet towel on the bed. Although he has no idea of it, Joel has six months to prove that his credits outweigh his debits. Or else ..."
I put the book down and just looked at it. Then it infuriated me. I wanted to rip every page from the binding and then stomp on it. Really lady?! Really?! Shouldn't you just be happy that you have a husband, and seriously if you are not happy then just leave him, but don't complain to the rest of us about it. Grow up! I stood there just looking at the book, giving it my best evil eye. How dare this book mock me while I'm trying to grieve. I breathe in and out and tell myself how totally irrational I'm being. I pull myself together only to realize there is a lady staring at me. Maybe she felt my anger and was waiting to see if she was going to have to rescue that poor book. I left the book just the way I found it. Maybe it's a really good book, and I mean no disrespect to the author. It's just not something a new widow wants to read. After that debacle I moved on and couldn't help but to smile as picked up the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman. This is a book that Mike would have liked.
Books are magical. They are my way of escaping for small chunks of time. They stretch my imagination, and teach me new things. I simply love to read. I will leave you with this quote from the introduction of American Gods.
"I don't know what it's like to read this book. I only know what it was like to live the writing of it."
This is often what I feel like when I write. I don't know how this looks to the rest of you as you read it, because I only know what it's like to live the life I'm writing about.