A friend of mine recently gave me the book, I’d Rather Be Reading, The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel. What a great gift to give to a fellow all-around book enthusiast! As I began to peruse its pages it made me wonder how my love for books began, and then these wonderful memories of my mom surfaced in my mind’s eye.
It all began when I was quite young. My siblings and I would run into the house after school, and Mom would have a snack waiting for her four hungry hounds. We would then do our homework before dinner, and so each day would go. The magical time came after dinner. Everything in the kitchen would be washed and put away, and we would gather around the sofa for story time. We never knew until right before the story began if a treat would be involved--either Jiffy Popcorn or a square from a giant Hersey Bar. Happily munching on our goodies, we would await the sound of the book being opened and the pages turned to whatever chapter we left off from the night before.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson was always one of our favorite stories. A story of “buccaneers and buried gold.” Long John Silver shaped my perception of pirates, including tropical islands and one-legged seamen, bearing parrots on their shoulders. Treasure Island propelled me to playing Captain Hook in a play, and I paraded around the house as a pirate for weeks. “Ahoy, matey!” I yelled at my siblings each night before we went to bed. To this day, I just love stories and movies that involve pirates, and I even own a small collection of books about pirates.
Then there was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. If you’ve read this haunting tale you probably can still see Beauty as a carefree young colt, and you probably still cry when he begins a difficult life journey pulling cabs in London. If you’ve ever felt confined or been treated cruelly, then you might feel as joyous as I felt when Beauty gets his freedom. You can feel his breath of relief as he returns to the countryside to enjoy a happy retirement in the fresh air he enjoyed as a young colt.
And if you’ve never read The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, I urge you to do so now! The story revolves around Edmund Dantès—betrayed by those he thought were his friends—and his desire for retribution. It’s a story of the conflict between good and evil told in a mesmerizing way with much excitement and drama (and more pirates)!
These were just some of the stories my mom read to us. Each of book full of richness and wonderful detail, and the sound of my Mom’s voice as she read to us. They brought my siblings and I into other worlds for just a moment each night, and were full of life lessons about kindness, sympathy and understanding.
In her book, Ann Bogel writes, “A book well written will make you think about things in a new way, or feel things you didn’t expect a book to make you feel, or see things in a new light. A book you won’t want to put down, whose characters you don’t want to tell good-bye. A book you will close feeling satisfied and grateful, thinking, Now, that was a good one.”
All of this made me think about the one book that never got opened in our home. The Bible. I read it for the first time as an adult. And when I began to read it, the words between its covers brought a whole new world to life. It has any theme you want between its pages. It has places to visit. It has characters to meet throughout its 66 books. It has a story that has still not ended. It’s a book that you will love, and every time, you close it, think, “That was amazing!” From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals everything he has created. It is a treasure trove of lessons in how to love, how to forgive, how to endure turmoil in daily life, and how to find true wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Through the Bible God shows us how to live as God would like us to live, as His children. God’s Word also shows how hard it is to break away from our sin nature. We get a realistic picture of ourselves and the struggles we face and the habits—for good or ill—that we cultivate.
So, Mom, although we never opened that particular book in our home, God did not forsake us. He showed your children how to connect over good books at a young age, and through these books as Ann Bogel say: “the full range of human emotions were shown to your children, from gut-wrenching, puddle-of-tears reactions. They captured the truth of our experiences, and validated our losses. They surprised us. They made us feel the loss of what could have been. They made us laugh. They allowed us to explore places we might never travel to.”
Reading became a habit I fell in love with, and one of my favorite so-called escapes. Thank you, Mom, for the bookshelves filled with amazing tales of life. Thanks for passing along your fascination with books—from cookbooks to mystery novels to biographies. Thanks for teaching me the joy of browsing libraries and bookstores. Thank you for making me fall head over heels in love with the joy of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Winnie the Pooh.
And thanks for pirates, horses and Edmund Dantès.