I was in the library reshelving the mountains of books that had been returned, letting my mind wander over the 14 years since my dream of operating this library had come into existence. A thought suddenly struck me and I stood upright. I looked around me. Books on shelves, books on the floor, books in my hand...always in my hand. Where had this drive, this passion for the written word come from?
My mind drifted farther back in time, to the 60's, when I was a small girl. I was grasping for a memory...any memory...of books in my life. I could find none. I had no recollection whatsoever of being read to as a young child. I had dolls, and I remember the Christmas of my fourth year getting my beloved Raggedy Ann. She is still with me, nearly 50 years old now, and showing her age like I am. I recall long hours playing outside, turning hollyhock blossoms into lovely ballroom ladies and setting them to dancing on the water.
But no books...
I don't blame my parents for this. They both worked long hours just trying to put food on the table. They had not grown up with books themselves, being children of the Appalachian mountains where day to day thoughts were on survival.
1972, my 4th grade year, was a turning point for me. I had gotten perfect attendance and my teacher, Mrs. Elkins, gave me a copy of a Trixie Belden book. I still have the very copy of this book. I devoured it and wanted more. I read voraciously...Trixie, Ramona the Pest, Anne of Green Gables. I even remember the Landmark book on Old Ironsides. My 7th grade teacher, Mrs. Grabeel, would spend time every day reading to her class. I listened in rapt attention as she read, experiencing for the first time really, that anyone took the time to just read to me.
In high school, my quest for books did not diminish. I read as I had time between my studies (and playing Rook in study hall.) Thankfully I did have a couple of English teachers who assigned some decent literature which pointed me away from the twaddle and gave me a taste of beautiful words.
In my young adult years I always read...and read...and read...volumes upon volumes of Christian fiction...you know the ones that line the Christian bookstore shelves. Oh how I would love to have all those reading hours back!
Then...I had a child.
And the rest, as they say, is history. I began filling his life with the written word, discovering the treasures I had never known in my own childhood. As he grew, my knowledge and collection grew. The hours I never had as a child being read to, snuggled up on the sofa or in the bed, being taken away to other lands, we're being spent with my own child. And it was wonderful. His mind and imagination were being fed from the best of children's literature. It became part of our family culture. My boys have never known a time without books. They have been shaped and formed by story.
As my memories brought me to the present, I realized I had lost a lot from being book deprived as a child. Even though I had been privileged to unearth these treasures with my children, I knew I was missing that childlike faith in reading them. I was an adult and could never again know the wonder and excitement of really believing that everything is possible in books. It made me very sad.
But I have gained so much in sharing these gifts with my children. There is nothing in the world that equals reading to a child, to travel to those worlds with them, to see them being molded and equipped for their life's callings. And I am being re-made. I bring to the table more life experiences. My own future is made fuller because of these books.
And the joy I have of offering this collection to the young lives in the library is immense and so very rewarding. So I pick up another stack of books to shelve.