I was that kid who literally shoved her nose in a book and didn’t take it out until she’d flipped cover to cover. Most of my childhood memories are centered around lying on my couch, feet up, reading a book. On sick days, I’d make blanket forts in the living room and hide away, reading Zoo Books or Ranger Rick magazines.
I think we all lose a little of that as we grow up. Our day demands more studying and working, and allows for less free time. We get caught up in ourselves and our relationships, good or bad, and we forget that what really made us happy was that time alone, practically upside down on the sofa, reading Harriet the Spy, Tom Sawyer, Harry Potter.
And then this weird thing happens. We somehow come back around to those simpler times and remember how full our life was with them. Books fill that void, stop that gushing sorrow we feel in our heart, as a cork would stop a leaking rowboat in some terrible cartoon.
I accidentally found that 9 year old inside of me today. It took the end of a year-long relationship and a trip to the ocean to coax her out, but it’s been a long time coming, really.
That little girl is my personal Jesus. Because where some pray frequently, as I have occasionally, to find comfort and calm, I reach for stories and memoirs to pull me into their world and out of mine. But the escapism I get from books doesn’t lead inevitably to a denial of my problems, but more to a solution. Somehow, by forgetting them for a few hours, I work them out in the back of my mind. It feels good, lately, to let that happen.
As a child, I rode the bus 20 minutes home from school, then walked 3/4 of a mile to my house. I would read a book on the bus and, not wanting to put it away for even ten minutes, continue reading as I walked down my street. I lived out in the country, and rarely had to worry about cars driving past, so I could walk without incident. I have to admit, though, my walk would take twice as long when I had a book in hand. I barely noticed and definitely never cared.
I hadn’t done that in at least ten years until today. We’re staying at a house by the ocean, about a 15 minute walk from the beach. We had a beach house in the Puget Sound until I was about 10, and coming back here is so wonderfully nostalgic. The air smells briny, so much better than in California or Hawaii, and the water is too cold to enter but I always do anyway, like I’m still that little kid who didn’t care. My mom, sister and I went wore our swimsuits and brought towels and books down to the water this afternoon, but I got cold after about an hour and decided to walk back to the house. It was nice to have some time with my thoughts, but after a while I really wanted to keep reading my book. So I did. And it felt wonderful. As if that little girl, so impatient to find out what happened next, just jumped out of me.
I don’t ever want that girl to go away. She’ll hide, maybe for years, but I’d like to think she’s here to stay.