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Books – A Personal History

I love books. I mean, I fucking love books.

You could probably have guessed that, what with all the talking about books I do. Books have been my entire life. Books were constant companions, fast friends who could always be trusted. Books took me to the moon. Books took me to Narnia. Books took me to Middle Earth, to Xanth, to small towns in Maine. Books took me places that never existed. Books took me to the distant past, the distant future, and even to distant planets. Books didn’t have limits. Books went on endlessly, uncountably, forever and ever, amen.

I came up in what is politely called lower-middle class. Less politely, I was raised white trash in the South. I didn’t have much, but I did have parents who were avid readers. They were table top gamers, and eavesdropping on D&D games was my first glimpse of what stories could do. Sitting at the top of the stairs, unable to see my parents and their friends, I was carried on wings of words to a place where cruel kings and devious dragons fought weary warriors and clueless clerics. Their voices painted my dreams with a world of impossible odds and the capricious roll of the dice.

My mother would read to me and my siblings before bed, a tradition I grieved for when we became ‘too old’. I have never finished the story she stopped in the middle of. Long car trips every weekend meant audiobooks, sonorous voices lulling us into behaving with elaborate fantasy worlds. My father invented epic sagas starring our teddy bears, who had had very interesting lives before retiring and coming to our house to protect us.

Then I learned to read. My elementary school didn’t have a library in the traditional sense. The aging brick building was surrounded by those temporary trailers, all bedraggled and sinking into the clay mud. They were already old when I was a girl, and were still there when I went to visit as an adult. One of those trailers was the library. There was an elderly woman who worked there, stamping cards with a rubber contraption. I devoured. In the third grade, my teacher’s dementia lead her to frequently forget me. I would sit in the back of the classroom, hidden behind a bookshelf with a children’s encyclopedia. To this day I don’t know my times tables, but I read the whole thing.

I couldn’t get enough books. I was a quiet kid, a loner with poor social skills. I hid behind books, a tactic that still serves me. Lunch? Book time. Recess? Outside book time. Gym? Under bleachers book time. Math? Hidden book time. Books were my friends. Books were my shield. Books filled my life. I huddled in a cocoon of ink and paper, waiting and praying that eventually, I would burst forth a beautiful moth. I prayed to books; to an unseen and unnamed deity of yellowed pages and dust motes, who silently prowled a Valhalla of infinite bookshelves. I prayed, and devoted my fumbling fingers to becoming a priestess of that being. I prayed, and was blinded to everything but my quest. I prayed, and I was shielded and protected by books, armored in vicarious experiences and weapons forged of words.

To;dr: I fucking love books.

About gwensimon

I write things. I drink and swear and sometimes sing.

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