***this was the beginning part of a first draft of a paper i had to write for the capstone class in my program at EMU. the paper was the first of the semester, and would be best described as a sort of 'autobiography of reading'--you know, sort of explaining one's descent (?) into literature. anyway, as i was working on it, i wanted my mom to read it and give mem feedback, so i posted it to my blog. i meant to take it down later, but i never did. so, here it is.***
When I was five days old my mom left me with my grandmother and went out to do some shopping. She came back with enough formula for approximately 3 days and some children’s books—-but no diapers. My grandmother was concerned. The thing was, my mother had left my father while she was pregnant, and working as a waitress. And here she comes, up the apartment stairs, bringing her newborn can’t-even-really-see-much-more-than-colors-yet daughter books instead of diapers. Her only defense was that she wanted books to be an important part of my life.
And they were, even before I knew how to read.
I remember being at the bus stop at the beginning of first grade and pretending to read out of some Care Bears story book which I thought was really fabulous at the time. I couldn’t really read yet. I had the stupid thing memorized, and of course some mean horrible sixth grader had to call me out on this. It was horrible and embarrassing and horrible. I was determined to never be embarrassed about my reading skills again, and by the middle of second grade I was reading ‘big kid’ books—which brought along problems of its own.
One day, I was sitting at the kitchen table reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume. Now, this would have been a really good book. But seeing as how almost the entire story is about puberty and periods and the like, I was kind-of left out. Because I was eight. I got through almost the entire novel before this conversation took place:
Me: Mom, what’s a purod?
My Mom: A what?
Me: A purod.
My Mom: I have no idea what you’re talking about. Try to explain it better.
Me: Well, in this book, Margaret keeps talking about how she wonders when she’s going to get her purod, and I just can’t figure out what it is.
**it’s worth noting that secretly I thought it was some kind of present. In the book, Margaret it Jewish. I thought maybe it was like some other kind of Christmas or something.
My Mom: Well, I’ve never heard that word before. Spell it for me.
The conversation then ends because my mother thinks this is the funniest thing she’s ever heard. She almost wets herself from laughing too hard and will go on to tell this story to many other people over the course of my life.
The first time I knew I was doing something different with books was in the fourth grade. I mean, I always knew that I liked books more than other people-—my mom eventually started grounding me from reading when I was in trouble. But I guess I never thought about it until the Bridge to Terebithia incident, which goes something like this:
Everyday, my teacher would give the class about 30 minutes of personal reading time. We were allowed to get up from our desks and sit anywhere we wanted for this time. I loved this time. LOVED! But I didn’t say this out loud, of course, because no one else loved this time. A lot of people slept. I usually sat underneath the teacher's desk while I read. I don’t know where the teacher was—-but she definitely wasn’t sitting there. Anyway, this turned out to be a good thing, because toward the end of Bridge to Terebithia one of the main characters dies, which I did not know could happen in books. I mean, she was a little kid, and she flat out dies a terrible death in this book. And my little fourth grade self is sitting under the teacher's desk, holding this terrible book trembling hands, trying not to sob out loud as tears roll down my face.
Then junior high came along. I don’t remember any really good reading experiences from this time of my life. Because junior high? It Rots Your Brain. Fortunately, it doesn’t really last all that long.
Then came high school. Obviously. High school was cool because all my Lit. teachers thought I was really smart. I don’t think I’ll ever be sure how that happened, but it turned out to be a very cool thing because I was allowed to read Anything I Wanted. They assumed I had read all the Wuthering Heights and the Great Expectations and the whatnot, and let me choose from other similar authors and read On My Own Time. It was so, soooooo cool—of course, much later I realized that I actually did have to read those books, and had to do that on my own time, too. Anyway, I read Frankenstein-—which rocked my world—and Vanity Fair-—which did even more so—-and then The Handmaid’s Tale. When I think about this book, I am filled with a sense of wonder to this very day.
Now, I could go on and on and ooonnnnn about the fabulousness that is this book. And I will, to at least some extent.
***and, yeah. i did go on about it. but, at the time of this posting, this was all there was--after this, i continued to write all night long, so of course the end product looked much different than this first draft, and it would make no sense if i tried to add an ending on at this point. i suppose i could just post the finished product. but, we're not in class--hey! i've even graduated since this was first posted! and also, i sort of like this as a glipmse into my writing process, which, of course, can be best described as writing into oblivion and worrying about the rest later.***