Samuel Snoek-Brown wrote a great post, about The passing of Maurice Sendak, between his post and the terrific comments about it, it generated some nostalgia for me, about how wonderful it was growing up with a book in my hand. I always had a book, always. My parents were typical suburban parents of the 60’s / 70’s and of all that they gave us, what I remember most was the gift of reading. I simply do not remember “not” being able to read. Do you? I know people who didn’t read until they got to grade school. But I remember reading before I got to kindergarten. I was the proverbial kid with the flashlight under the covers reading till the wee hours (probably only till 10pm but with an 8 o’clock bedtime 10 was pushing the envelope). I had very special places where I would hide and read. some of my fave’s were behind the green sofa, I was a long skinny girl and I could lay back there with a pillow for my head and if I positioned myself juuust right, I could read by the light of the table lamp. Sometimes our poodle, Pepe, would join me. Another place I could be found (after I got bigger) was in the linen closet. Mom didn’t store anything in the bottom of the closet, so in I would crawl, with a pillow and a flashlight and read the day away. I remember when I was about 8 or so my Uncle Frank must have heard me reading out loud, and he gently knocked on the linen closet door and when he opened the door he didn’t look surprised or say “get out of there, go outside and play” he just asked “what are you reading'” I don’t remember what it was but I told him and he sat down in the floor and let me read to him.
Probably my most wonderful place to read was up in the big oak tree in the back yard. I could reach the bottom limb by the age of 11 or 12 and after that, that’s where you would find me. I would take an old basket, put my book, a snack and a flashlight in it, in case it got dark, tie a rope to it and climb up to this magical place. There were 3 limbs perfect to reading, one to sit on, one to lean against and one to prop my feet on. Then I’d hoist up the basket.
Reading was not only a way to escape the tough times that childhood can be, but it feeds the imagination, it provides knowledge and understanding. It brings in light where there is darkness and dims the spotlight when you feel over exposed. It allows you to travel beyond your own back yard, to places both wild and exciting to scary and inviting. You can set sail, or ride bare back, you can fight monsters or hunt for treasure. You can join in the fight whether it be for Love or War. Reading allows children to soar when they haven’t yet grown wings.
Peace and light go with you Mr Sendak.
“And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!”