Last night, I began reading a new chapter book to Lila called The Pushcart War. I remember having this book read to me when I was her age. To be honest, I don’t remember the details at all, I just remember loving it.
I happened on a copy of this book while in college, found it sitting on the crowded table of NYC bookseller on the Upper West Side. His name was Mr. Levin, a large man whose bulbous nose sported enormous pores and sat above a mustache worthy of the Mustache Hunt. He unloaded his books every day from a white van, and I would sit and listen to him talk with his big booming voice.
The Pushcart War he placed on his table had worn, ratty edges and pages of a cliché yellow all old books must have, but it was in decent enough shape for a dollar. I didn't want children at that point in my life, but I bought it to read to the children I might one day have if maybe I changed my mind.
I'm glad I did.
This book brings me to the beginning of reading.
To the days I learned that you can disappear into a book, and how one book can change your life forever.
Fast forward to fifth grade when the librarian of Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas introduced me to Madeline L’Engle and A Wrinkle In Time. I remember certain details but if you asked me to outline the entire plot, you’d have me at a complete loss. I do clearly remember three witchy women who could bend time, wrinkle it, so you could move between places and dimensions in seconds. Close your eyes and you’re in a new world, a fantasy, where magic exists and anything is possible in spite of the danger inherent to your adventure.
Would you trade a safe spot for the thrill and excitement? I wouldn’t.
I read all Madeline L’Engle’s books and even had the chance to hear her speak live. She talked about the nature of writing children’s books. You don’t, she said, write as if you’re writing for a child. A storyteller writes for an adult, for any audience and if you do it well, a child will adore it as much as her parents.
I think about every author I’ve read who has opened new worlds and adventures. Shakespeare and Chaucer showed the adventure of language. How just because a word is foreign, doesn’t mean it can’t be funny, raunchy and fascinating. I devoured Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age and Virginia Woolf's A Room Of Her Own and Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Love In the Time Of Cholera.
These days, I tend not to read books anymore.
They’re too heavy to carry around in a suitcase, and between having a child, a job, editing Matador Life and figuring out how to lead this new expat life in Argentina, I’m wiped out by the end of the day. That I spend my day writing articles and reading other’s work leaves me jaded to the written word.
But as I introduce Lila to the first book I remember reading, her excitement opens me up to the possibilities of reading once more.
And as I finish writing this blog entry, I realize how all of who I am today, all I’ve done and accomplished, the choices I make, the people I love and places that call my name, all became inevitable when I held that first book in my hand.