Thursday, January 10, 2008

Books, Food, What's the Difference?

The first book I ever remember having was a Little Golden book (and I still have it) called The 10 Commandments. I think I got it before I ever went to school. It was beautifully illustrated and was given to me by my Aunt Adeline who loved books.

Her kids (all five) were readers and I can remember being at their house a lot, (her daughter, Mary Beth was my best friend) and half the time kids would be eating at the table with their noses in books. That didn't happen at my house, even though my mother was an avid reader.I remember reading Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories and I still have that book and a book called Jennie about a nurse. There were Bess Aldrich books and lots of historical fiction books.

My dad was functionally illiterate and my brother would rather be doing something(ANYTHING) rather than read, and my dad didn't like seeing me lying around reading. My brother just hated reading. I can remember one time he wrote his book report totally from using the back copy and flipping through it to find quotes! I was appalled. He missed the whole thing. Sometimes I wondered if we were even related.

One thing that I did get from my dad--he wanted me to go to college and he helped me all he could. I remember after I got my first teaching job, he called me an "Old Maid School Marm" and his memories of school were all bad, but I heard through others how much he bragged about me to his friends. I was the first of his family to graduate from college (and several followed me thereafter--including that brother who didn't like to read! And he got two degrees!ha)

I have a minature set of Little Golden books in a small cardboard bookcase thing. Someday I'm going to photograph it and show you. I read those tiny books so many times. My mom, too generous, gave away some of them, so it isn't exactly complete but there are quite a few. Very few books from my childhood survived because like I said, my dad's wife after 3 weeks of dating her,(he married her after my mother died. My parents had been married 46 years,) threw them out. What I had were books that I had already swiped from mom and dad's house after mom died. (I figured Dad didn't care--if I had known, I would have taken more!)

Young Aaron Pierson

I did manage to save my Grandfather Aaron's(a Swedish immigrant) Bible that was in English.When his family came to America, he learned to read English and made his children learn English--forbade them to speak Swedish at home so they would do well in school. He encouraged my mother's family to become educated. Many of them were very well-educated--doctors, artists, nurses, teachers, librarians, business owners, managers. He would have been proud.

So, back to my favorites. When I went to school, there were tons of books to read in my two-room Christian school! I read an entire series of biographies of famous people as children. I loved those books. Then, of course, I read Little House on the Prairie books. Most of the books were somehow Christian in nature and a lot were Bible stories. I read Louisa May Alcott and those kinds of books. But my favorites were Native American stories or mysteries. One story that combined both was Key to the Treasure by Peggy Parrish. I loved that book! I didn't get to read the Nancy Drew/Hardy Books until I was in junior high when I went to public school, but man, I loved Key to the Treasure.

Key to the Treasure

When we moved in my sixth grade year, my new teacher was a Jewish man in a decidedly Friends (Quaker) rural community. It was the first time I was in public school and in a school with more than two rooms for eight grades. Only sixth graders in this room. That was the year we could order Scholastic books for something like 95 cents each. Cheap paperback books, but so awesome. I think I ordered a book every time. I loved that! I got Mark Twain books, classics, and my favorite was My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber. That was also the year that Mr. Rosen, my teacher read to us Edgar Allan Poe books to us after lunch. Wow. Loved that stuff! I read all the classics and by HS we had been exposed to all the best books ever written.Not only did I work in the library for 3 years, I took every English class they had in my HS.

Then, back to the next summer after sixth grade (when I had turned 13)-- my mom let me read some of the books she read. Two books stood out: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I read James Michener books and any number of Phyllis Whitney books, and basically anything I could get away with in the library.

When my Aunt Adeline died, about a year after my mother did, her kids got her books that were stacked in her homemade book cases--boards separated by bricks. She had tons of books and she had given away some before she died--I have a couple of those, which were Reader's Digest books. But my mom's books were mostly destroyed, except for the few I had foresight to swipe.

But there was something that no one could ever destroy--the love of reading that my mother and Aunt Adeline had given to me. I still read the newspaper every day, just as I did with my mom when I was growing up. She would be amazed that I now get paid for reading books (manuscripts.)

I love talking about books and finding out what everyone is reading. Last night, one of my students from when I was teaching P.E. who is now a grown up with a job, instant messaged me. She still keeps in touch with her (now) old teacher. We got to talking about books we have read recently, and exchanged favorites. Our common bond now is books.

1 comment:

Delia said...

I love "Key to the Treasure"! My children have a copy of it now.

I'm sorry that your childhood books were tossed away. It's sad to lose things like that.