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 black rectangular frames are sleek - sexy librarian chic. 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, I learned that “I can be anything / Take a look / It’s in a book,” on the long-running PBS television series "Reading Rainbow."
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.
When I was 10, I started keeping 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. Through reading, I escaped to Stoneybrook, Connecticut where I hung out with Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey. Later, I adored my 8th grade English teacher because she still 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. Now I write personal essays and memoir.
I am a writer, a lover of words, a 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.