If you know me you might also know I’m never far from a book. Usually, I have three or four going at once. I try not to read fiction (but I do) because I’m a plot junkie. My family goes hungry and the piled up laundry makes a nice bed to recline on while my nose remains planted in the story. Non-fiction is a pick-up/put-down affair that remains manageable.
Maybe I should quit fiction cold-turkey but I’m in the middle of a George MacDonald book right now, “The Curate of Glaston,” so, not gonna happen. MacDonald is an author from the mid 1800’s and if you aren’t familiar with him, start with “The Fisherman’s Lady.” This book is still on loan to me by my good friend, Teresa, who has probably decided to never loan me another book as long as she lives. She handed it off two years ago but I can’t give it back until I have forced Bo and Grizzly to read it, being the gentle soul I am. Bo just picked it up three nights ago. I’m all twitter pated.
Here is a weird side note you can’t live without knowing. The sequel to this book is “The Marquis’ Secret.” When I got done with “The Fisherman’s Lady” I realized I HAD to have the sequel but didn’t know for sure if it was even in print. I leaned back in my chair and, as something reminded me of my sister who passed on many years ago, I began to talk to Bo about her and said it would be nice to have a visit from her. While contemplating, I glanced over to my left and gazed at my large, glass fronted bookcase. I keep special book collections there and know the thing like the back of my hand. I was perusing the titles and just browsing absentmindedly when my eye fell on a title I didn’t know I had: “The Marquis’ Secret.”
I’d be lyin’ if I didn’t tell you that I was freaked out (in a good way) and then completely amused. It felt like Judy gave me a gift and a laugh, which would be just like her. Now, I realize this is bad theology but God has a sense of humor, too. (If you don’t believe me, just read the Bible. It has many laugh-out-loud moments and no, I’m not kidding.)
By the way, this is very bad writing because it’s not what I started to write about at all and I cannot seem to come to the point.
What I really wanted to talk about was how this book obsession started. This is the culprit that fueled my fancy:
And no wonder, with such scintillating dialogue as this:
Dick said, “Look, look.
Look up, up, up.”
Jane said, “Run, run.
Run, Dick, run.
Run and see.”
You understand now why I was hooked.
Reading was magic to me. I absolutely could not believe that you could take these letters and smash them all together to create words and stories. I followed my mother around reading riveting tales to her while she worked in the house. Others needed to know about the magic contained in my first-grade reader and Dick and Jane had incredible adventures with their dog, Spot. I couldn’t keep that to myself.
This dawning-light realization was so profound to me that it didn’t even ruin my first grade year when I peed on the floor of my classroom.
That one moment might have been the first indication that I would have this problem my whole life; not a weak bladder, but the tendency to completely miss something that needed to be addressed, until it was too late.
We were stacking our chairs on the table at the end of the school day. I had faithfully placed my little chair on the table in front of me when it hit. I rushed my hand into the air and asked the teacher if I could go to the bathroom. She declined and told me I could wait as we only had a few more minutes. I couldn't hold it against her because it made sense, at the moment. But what else I couldn’t hold was my bladder. I cringed while something warm rivered down my bare leg. I looked at the floor where my shiny black patent-leather shoes and white bobby socks floated like an island amid an amber sea.
Mortification was not a word I could smash together yet but the feelings were clear as glass. My mind cast about feverishly for a solution that did not involve disclosure. I knew discovery by fellow classmates would be even worse. Instantly, I hatched a brilliant plan wherein I sat down in the puddle, with my coat on, and proceeded to soak up the lake bed by quickly scooting around in it……. inconspicuously, I’m sure.
But no one seemed to notice. Not the teacher. Not my classmates. And, for some strange reason when I got home, not my mother, either. I walked home in that “pee” coat but didn’t say a word. I wore it again. Did no one notice a strange smell? Didn’t I? Didn’t she? There are no answers to this conundrum but the important thing is, I went to a different school the next year.
And I learned to read.
All this is tied together for me and, what could have easily crowded out my love of books, was simply a soggy side note in my first grade career. And actual ownership of the book, “Fun with Dick and Jane,” became a quest. My first copy had gone back into the school’s dark closets, ready to be handed to the next bare legged child with poor foresight. I now dug through book bins and scouted garage sales in my search. Nothing. Then, on vacation in Hawaii several years ago, we hit a garage sale on a reservation in Kaua’i. There, on a little table amid humid tropical breezes, sat the book of my awakening. It was .15¢.
I tried to pay the owners more. They wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, hearing my story, they piled more wonderful books on us – for free – and would not take no for an answer. Pacific Islanders are among the most giving and loving people in the world. And I’m glad the book never came to me until that day because it will forever have their kindness and island location attached to it. Now it sits on a special shelf with other books I’ve loved.
And Grizzly found the little paper milk carton for me years ago during an old school remodel. It was on a rafter in the attic, no doubt a cast off from someone working up there in decades past. It went perfectly with the book because the other wonderful thing about first grade was the milk and graham crackers we paid .5¢ for each day. I still have a love for those two things together.
It’s probably good I had that little accident. If not, I might have stayed in first grade forever.
And that would be ugly. Especially if I still had that coat on.