“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
When I was little, probably elementary school age, every week, my dad would take me to our small local library. He would sit by the windows and read a book, a magazine, or the newspaper as I headed to the kids section with it’s green and yellow foam chairs and aisles of adventure. I don’t ever remember my dad reading a story to me. I don’t ever remember him suggesting a book or coming over to help me find a book. But week after week we went to the library. Him in his chair; me in the kids stacks. I remember reading Judy Blume, Joan Aiken, Madeline L’engle, Lois Duncan, Robert Corimer, Beverly Cleary and a host of others.
I used to think my dad took me every week because he loved to read. Now, as a mother, I think perhaps it was also because my own mother said, “Hey, dad, want to get Patti out of the house and take her to the library?” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) 🙂
It doesn’t matter why though, because the outcome became the same. I grew up loving to read.
I remember one of the first books I loved was Charlotte’s Web. I had the whole first chapter memorized. This was probably for two reasons. The first, because I loved to act. Dramatic you say, why yes, of course I was! (I swore I was going to be a Broadway star someday but that is a post for another day.) The second reason I memorized the first chapter is because I am a loyalist. Once you claim the title of friend, I am by your side till the end. It’s just part of my character and how I came into this world. So the whole book spoke to my soul on a very fundamental basis.
I remember in high school reading Faulkner’s, As I Lay Dying. I was memorized by the story of this dysfunctional family and the handling their mother’s death. I loved Faulkner’s device to use chapters to express each characters unique voice in the unfolding drama and how it affects each of them.
I remember Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky and from the first sentence I was hooked. The scene near the end with Sonya on the steps will forever, in my mind, be the picture and definition of Grace and Meaning in this life. It had and still has a profound influence on me and my life views. If I ever learn to paint, that scene is a painting I want to extract from my memory and brushstroke to life to hang in my home.
In college, I had several boyfriends who also changed my world. In trying to understand them better, I read their favorite books.
One such book was Where the Red Fern Grows. Dan and little Ann. I sat in the English building on campus one stormy night reading it front to back. I melted in a puddle of tears at the end and ran home, literally ran home, knocked on his door and fell right into his arms. Reading his favorite book helped me understand some things about him and made me feel that much closer to him.
I also read “The Crucible” which was a favorite book of another college boyfriend. This time in a library stall, one sunny afternoon, I melted into a puddle, not because of the story, but because I suddenly understood my friends sense of duty and justice at all costs…and the weight of that particular tendency on him…and on me.
By the time I graduated college, you could have handed me a passage of writing and by the style and content I could have told you the author. I was in love with how words connect, slide around one another and create meaning on a blank page.
As I got older, time and responsibilities have limited my thirst for words. However, I still continue to read and have created several book clubs along the way to share with others. There is just something so nourishing to me about reading and connecting.
As an adult, I have loved the Glass Castle with its ironic family bonding in such unusual circumstances. I loved Eat Pray Love for her descriptions of how going into a relationship for her was like diving off a high dive into a tiny bucket. Throughout my 20s, I had lost myself plenty of times in relationships; I understood every word of her story and struggle. I also read CS Lewis The Great Divorce and often remind myself I NEVER, EVER want to be like the Dwarf Ghost at the end who just can’t seem to change in order to encompass something outside his understanding. In fact, if you ask me what I fear, it would be him. His rigidity. His selfishness. His moment of hope squelched by self doubts and inability to risk and grasp onto joy.
So many stories and lessons. So much inspiration to be had. So many wounds to heal.
As I sit here on this beautiful morning, I wonder, what stories have shaped you? What stories are shaping your children? What are your favorite books and why do they inspire you?