Books are my companions. I knew books were special from a very early age. Books held stories and stories told about things I didn’t know, things I couldn’t do. Books were magic.
It took me, it seemed, forever to learn how to understand the squiggles that made words that told the meanings of stories. Other kids in class seemed to learn it quicker than I did. They DID learn it quicker than I did. No one then knew I was dyslexic. The summer after second grade I walked a mile to the home of a retired teacher at the end of our road. She taught me phonics with flashcards she still had. She would hold up a card with a squiggle, make an outlandish sound, and expect me to repeat the sounds with the appropriate cards.
I thought she was crazy; she certainly wasn’t talking! But she was kind, and I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I tried. Eventually I managed some success. It took me a year or so to actually gain some skill in reading and getting glasses at the end of fourth grade helped. During the fifth grade, I read fifty books!
I didn’t realize she gave me access to the world – and life!
Some books are such special friends, I read them more than once, some every few years. There is a novel I borrowed from an aunt when I was in high school. Fifty years later, I returned it. I had finally found a copy for my own!
To simply see books on my selves gives me comfort. I know they are there. Some books, I don’t need to read – I simply run my fingers across their spines. That tactile connection is enough.
For a time, I was an elementary school librarian. One principal I had appreciated the joy I shared with our students. I made a mural of an eight-foot-long, bright red race car – with books piled high and flying off behind it. Another time I drew a haunted house several feet tall. These I put on the wall of the hall outside the Library. One day, I stood outside the Library and blew bubbles as each class went to lunch. I talked to the students about their interests and helped them find those books. A kindergarten class “played Library,” which the teacher had never seen a class do before. Other principals were not so supportive and wanted me to be a policeman, or make sure every book was in its exact right place. I eventually left teaching.
As a small boy, I dreamed of a room full of shelves full of books. I now look around my house and see that dream has come true. Not only do I have shelves of books in every room, but I have stacks of books as well. And, now I’m beginning to have small stacks of books I’ve written or contributed to. That was another dream: to write books of stories.
One popular song when I was in high school had the line: “I have my books and poetry to protect me.” Books are a source of emotional protection. As a child I had been betrayed by the person I should have been able to trust the most, but she could not fulfill that role due to her own pain and suffering. So, I sought refuge in books to gain the sense of family and protection I craved and needed.
My father’s family had a friendly relationship with another family that went back to my grandmother’s teenage years. She took care of newborns and their mothers. One family had a home in Topeka and in Colorado. She went with them to Colorado one summer. When the daughter in this family was grown, she sold that house and bought an Inn, also in Colorado. My aunts and their cousins went there in the summers to work. My family helped later when she sold the house in Topeka. I was about eight and was involved too.
Among their things was a flat clock. I don’t know how else to describe it. It fascinated me and I’ve never seen another one like it. It was a windup clock that I sat on a shelf with my books. It had no “face” as you normally think of it. The numbers moved around the base like a turntable. Once, I wound it too tight and it’s never worked again. We don’t know when it will be fixed.