Sitting cross-legged on the floor in the living room of my parents’ house peering into a brown cardboard box filled with once-loved books from my childhood, I tell my brother’s girlfriend’s 10-year-old daughter that she should take them home with her. Handing over the cherished volumes stirs up dusty memories of my awkward youth. In school, I was the chubby girl, the one with glasses – large thick plastic frames the color of rose quartz. My hair was long, often tamed in a braided ponytail like a sandy blonde rope. I wore my socks pulled up to my kneecaps like my father. I looked like Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) from Little Miss Sunshine minus the “Super Freak” dance moves.
I collected colorful semiprecious gemstones from museum gift shops, unsharpened decorative pencils, and books. I was undeniably a geek, and still am. Now I have a woman’s curves. I still wear glasses but the rectangular black frames are now sleek, sexy librarian chic. After much experimentation, I’ve settled on a hairstyle that suits me, a short blonde bob with side bangs. I still have my gemstone collection, which is displayed in an antique English soap dish on the bookshelf in my bedroom, along with my beloved books.
I have always loved books. I especially love being read to. My mother read to me constantly as a child. A Little Golden Book called, The Saggy Baggy Elephant, was an early favorite. Bears on Wheels. Meet Kirsten. LeVar Burton picked up where mom left off, insisting that “I can be anything / Take a look / It’s in a book,” on the long-running PBS television series Reading Rainbow.
My first library card. Age 3.
I had my own library card by the time I was three, even though it would take years before I learned to read on my own. I struggled. It took a lot of hard work, fits and frustration for me to decipher the written language. I first heard the term dyslexia when I was seven, when the child psychologist said that’s why I was having so much trouble. Letters and words would get mixed up in my head. There were strategies I could use to compensate for my brain’s unique wiring. I wasn’t stupid.
The summer between 3rd and 4th grade, when I was 10, I read a lot. I kept a list of all the books I conquered – over 30 that summer. Little House on the Prairie, Gertie’s Green Thumb, stacks from The Baby-Sitters Club series. I longed to be just like Stacey, the BSC Treasurer. She had blonde hair and blue eyes like me and she was popular. I escaped to Stoneybrook, Connecticut where I hung out with Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey. I painted my fingernails weekly with wet n wild nail polish like my 8th grade English teacher, who I adored, because every day she read to us aloud in class.
A Chinese fortune cookie once professed, “You are a lover of words. One day you will write a book.” I took this as a good sign, a blessing from the universe to pursue my passion no matter what. I wrote in journals detailing unrequited crushes. I wrote poetry in spiral-bound notebooks. I wrote feature articles for the high school newspaper. I wrote screenplays in college. I wrote personal essays in my spare time. I’m writing my first memoir.
I am a writer, a lover of words, collector of signed books, and frequent library patron. The smell of old books makes me nostalgic for my childhood; it is the musty fragrance of a love that sustains over a lifetime. I could spend hours, days, losing myself in bookstores. I appreciate good stories, especially ones that are true, and I still love being read to.