Our Pages

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Serendipitous Discovery

Do you ever think back to the magic books brought to your life when you were a kid?

This weekend, my husband and I went to town on our house, deep cleaning, rearranging, and organizing it within an inch of its life. As we tore apart the basement bedroom, I rediscovered one of my most precious possessions: My Serendipity Book Collection.

With nostalgia welling deep within me, I pulled out the little hardback books and flipped through them, a distant smile on my face. In a matter of minutes, I was transported back into my early childhood, seeing the world through a five-year-old’s eyes once more.

When I was very young, we lived in a pretty, two-story home in Peach Tree City, Georgia. The house was the epitome of eighties awesomeness with brownish gold tiles, paneled walls, and plush shag carpet. I was a happy, healthy, active little girl, despite the fact that in those days, money was tight and as the youngest of three kids, nearly everything I wore or played with was a hand-me-down.

But that all changed when the first book showed up in the mail one day. My mom took me into her bedroom, tucked me into my parent’s huge bed, and curled up beside me. I gazed in awe at the perfect, unblemished cover, its edges crisp and sharp. The book was so new, it had never ever had the spine cracked. Opening to the first page, we settled in and she began to read.

Serendipity: The gift of finding valuables or riches not sought

In these stories, horses frolicked, mice flitted, bunnies hopped, and dragons baked. The brilliant illustrations drew me in while Mom gave life to the words on the page. The line between real and make-believe blurred, and I imagined a pure white unicorn really could live in the forest, waiting only for a little princess to find it, or a little pink sea monster actually did swim happily in the deep blue sea, offering not so gentle reminders to fishermen not to litter.

In those priceless moments, the world was mine for the taking. The thick, white pages were mine for the turning, my mom’s attention mine for the basking, my siblings’ presence mine for the banishing (lol). I absolutely lived for the moment another book would come. Once a month like clockwork they would arrive, and the ritual would begin again.

I can pinpoint with absolute certainty that this was the moment my love affair with books began. I can close my eyes and be back in that moment, just as eager for the book to end as I was for it not to end. I wanted to make sure everything would turn out okay in the end, but I always insisted on a second reading, to savor the story the second time around.

It was the joy of these books that carried me on to Charolottes’s Web, then The Root Cellar, through Bridge to Terabithia and beyond. From Clive Cussler, John Grisham, and Michael Crichton in high school to the day I stumbled upon my very first romance novel the summer before I left for college and found my true home.

Years ago, when my niece was born, I planned to send my collection to her, one at a time, when she turned five years old. But alas, her fifth year came and went, and still the books languished in my basement. I realized last night, as I lovingly flipped through the pages and relived the pleasure of receiving them all over again, that they are simply too precious for me to give away. They represent the very best from my childhood, tangible things that I can touch, see, and smell—and yes, read again.

How could I possibly give away something that is such a part of who I am today? After all, that’s what wills are for ;)

So tell me, what sparked your love of books? What was your favorite book/series? Any recommendations on a series I can send my 6-year-old niece, since, well, I’ll never be able to send these? ;)

18 comments:

  1. And BTW, I came across this very interesting article that pertains to today's blog:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/sep/27/toddler-book-apps

    Food for thought!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I remember the Seredipity books! It sounds like your mom made the reading of them a ritual, which probably added to the "specialness" of the occasion. I think my real love affair with books began with the Anne of Green Gables series.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yay, Lilia - someone else who has heard of these books! You know, I am almost ashamed to say it, but I never read Anne of Green Gables. I did see the movie last year, but perhaps I should go check out the book this week...

    Thanks for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mom taught me to read before kindergarten, so I was way ahead of the curve in school. In first grade, when the rest of my classmates were learning to read things like See Spot Run, I was sent off to join the advanced sixth grade reading group. It was a bit of a traumatic experience for me. Here I was, six years old and an outcast with the other first graders, forced to work with kids twice my age and still an outcast with them, as well. I didn't enjoy my reading time with them. The books they were reading were still below my abilities and I didn't feel like I belonged. But we moved to a different town in the summer between first and second grade, and my second grade teacher introduced me to the school library, where I could find all sorts of books that weren't just the ones we were told to read for class. She, like all of the educators, recognized that I was far beyond anyone else my age, so she took me to the section for the advanced readers even at the higher levels. The first book I found was Little Women. I started reading the classics then and fell in love, and I haven't looked back. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hmm, that's a tough one. I was always well ahead of the pack when it came to reading so early on I read through all the Nancy Drew books, Encyclopedia Brown tales, Ramona books then I stumbled upon the Anne of Green Gables books and was hooked there and then. :-) As for book recs for the younger set, my nieces love reading the Judy Moody books.

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a wonderful gift from your mother to have given you, Catherine - even if it did make you feel like a bit of an outcast. Reading opens our world and our minds in a way that nothing else can. I will, however, leave the classics to you. I got through Jane Eyre, but it was a struggle. I tend to prefer modern writers - like you!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I remember reading from a very early age as well. My mother passed down my father's "little golden books." They were written in the fifties. Little golden edges and binding. I remember one in particalar called Good Morning and Good Night. It became my favorite book. Just the fact that these books belonged to my father when he was a child made them extra special for me. I still have those books and they've been passed on to my children to read. They're very aged at this point but well loved.

    And your post just brought it all back to me. How much I loved to read as a child and the adventures I would take. I remember the first time I read Treasure Isle and how I dressed up as a pirate "pretending" to search for the treasure for weeks after reading it.

    And the first time I read Gone with the Wind with my mother. I was too young to read it alone but she helped me. I fell in love with history then and did a report at school about my favorite book. I got an A+ and still have that report that I wrote at nine years old. So many memories. Thanks for bringing me there again. Great post, Erin.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ack, Sandra - how could I have forgotten about Ramona?! I *devoured* those books, as well as the Babysitter's Club, and yes, a few of the Nancy Drews :)
    I hadn't thought of the Judy Moody series - good suggestions!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oh, The Little Golden Books - I forgot about those too, Suzie! And I love that they were all the more special since they were your father's :)
    As for Gone with the Wind, I was forced to read that for a semester-long project in my sophomore year of high school... and hated it! If I had been left to choose it on my own, I probably would have loved it, but such is the temperament of teenagers, lol!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh Erin, your blog just takes me back. :)

    There are pictures of me sitting with my "Little Golden" books, chubby little toddler hands grasping the edges. Honestly, it's hard for me to pick what book really kicked off my love of reading-but some favorites were/are: The Little House series, Anne of Green Gables series, my mom's old Trixie Belden books, Little Women, Where the Red Fern Grows...gosh, I could go on and on!

    As for your niece, the 7 year old has been in love with the Junie B. Jones series since Kindergarten. And I really have fun reading them with her! Although, she reads them to me now. *sniff*

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey, Erin.

    I remember very clearly the day I fell in love with books. Oh, I liked them in 1st grade - couldn't get enough of The Boxcar Children. But it was in 2nd grade, when my mom was going through radiation treatments, that reading became my best friend.

    Our class was doing "library time" and the teacher took me by the hand and led me to the 6th grade section. "I think you'll find something here that you'll like better." And I did. That year I read every Nancy Drew book on the shelf and all my relatives chipped in to make sure I had a fresh stash when I ran out of library books. My first Nancy was The Secret of the Brass Bound Trunk.

    From that moment on, life centered around books and reading and I still read a book every day or two....um, when I should be writing.

    Lucie j.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Aww, Marquita- they grow up so fast, don't they? All great books, thanks so much for stopping and sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wow, Lucie, what wonderful companions books have been for you! I love that now not only do you read them, but you write wonderful ones yourself!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Robert the Rose Horse was the first book I remember loving, and I heard it so many times I learned to "read" it by myself, reciting the memorized words:) Then there was Nancy Drew and A Wrinkle in Time and The Secret Garden and later Anne of Green Gables and all things Salinger -- all of which I still pick up and reread from time to time. The Harry Potter series reignited that feeling of being a kid utterly obsessed with reading. I'm reading a children's series now that has that thrilling feeling of wanting to be finished but also dreading finishing -- it's called The Dark Is Rising. Very imaginative.
    I love this post and I love those books of yours...Serendipty books were beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Bangalee! Flutterby! Glitterby Baby! I still have those on my bookshelf. :) Anne of Green Gables was huge for me also, and the Laura Ingalls books. The Never Ending Story was the first book without pictures that my dad read to me. Swan Lake, The Secret Garden, Little Women! I have always been a voracious reader, and I used sit in my closet with the light on, after bedtime, trying not to rustle the pages as I turned them, hoping my parents wouldn't notice the light under the door. So many great books, and since I have boys, it's been so disappointing for me not to have someone to pass these on to. But I do get to pass on Ferdinand the Bull and Blueberries for Sal... :D

    ReplyDelete
  16. So many fabulous books, Kara! Oh how I loved Robert the Rose Horse :). Clearly our parents did a phenomenal job of instilling a love for reading. There is no greater gift... Aside from love, of course!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Ferdinand the Bull! Olivia, your killing me with warm fuzzier, here! Love your offerings- and I'm glad that at least some of your favorites are fit for your boys :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. When I was four, my mom worked at a hospital and had to be on-call. She was single at the time, so when she was called in, she often had to bring me with her. My aunt was an ER nurse at the same hospital and would sometimes take me home with her when her shift ended.

    I loved staying the night, because my older cousins read to me from this awesome book of fairy tales. (It was actually a collection of books that remind me of encyclopedias. I wish I knew what they were called.) The illustrations were great and long after my cousins tired of reading to me, I would pour over the pictures and let my imagination run wild.

    These experiences sparked my love for books. :)

    ReplyDelete