The day I first climbed into the redbud tree in front of our house on Tita Street, apple in pocket, “Little Women” clutched in my teeth, I learned about the power of escape. How could it be possible that the March family allowed me to spy on them? I peered through the curtains, watching Marmee with her girls, listening to Beth play the piano while Amy fiddled with her blonde girls. Privy to their private thoughts, quirks and moods, I wondered what kind of sorcerer Louisa May Alcott could be. Although I initially identified with Meg, she of the beautiful hands and domestic aspirations, I so badly yearned to be Jo. To grow up to be described as fiery, strong-willed, independent, to be known as a lover of adventure, literature, and writing…all of this was at my fingertips? How? The cars passing below, the sounds of my brothers playing ball, my mother calling me to some chore…everything evaporated in Civil War-era New England. I soon learned there were others! Green Gables? Secret Gardens? How had this all been happening as I learned how to use alphabets, phonics and context clues?
From closing the covers on that first book when I was 7 or 8, until today, I identify as an unapologetic bilbliophile. Inside the pages of anyone else’s story, real or fiction, one finds escape without luggage or hassle. My father used to tease me about burning food on the stove because my nose was stuck in a book. That was a badge of honor, my entry into a world of secrets. There is a paradoxical nature to this craving to be alone with a good book. One finds oneself surrounded by charming and vexing characters of all sorts; you discover them in tandem with millions of other bibliophiles. You’d not give so much as a sideways glance to any one of these others unless they asked: “Have you also read…?”
“If a book is well-written, it is always too short.” Jane Austen
What book was your first? Which books about home led you to understand yours better? Which stories led you to see that home has as many faces as the spines staring out from your bookshelves? Which narratives offered you sanctuary? Which goaded you into action? Which put you in the first roller-coaster car, plummeting you downward to exhaustive grief or skyward to infinite happiness? Which caused callous fear to clutch so meanly that you dared not move less it find you?
I invite your comments.