For as long as I can remember, books have been my favorite toys. With the exception of a pair of ice skates I received one Christmas, I was always most delighted by the packages under the tree that were compact, rectangular and shaped like a Nancy Drew book.
While one might think of winter as the prime reading season, (being that one is stuck in the house due to snow or what not), I live in sunny San Diego so my reading habits do not ebb and flow according to weather conditions. Yet nonetheless, I often associate summer with the thrill of reading.
When I was little I spent summers in Madison, Wisconsin visiting my grandparents. Many hours were passed reading in the basement or next to my grandma while she knit. And there was no greater thrill than a trip to the University book store followed by ice cream at Babcock Hall. Perhaps it is nostalgia for these summers that drives me to stay up late reading at night and to lay in bed longer in the morning doing the same. For kids, summer equals a hiatus from school which means more freedom to indulge in whims. And so here I am at 43 feeling like I’m 8 again with the whole day open and stretched before me (even though it isn’t). But for now, for this sweet moment in time, I have my passport to far off lands.
For me, reading is a drug with healing properties. Books have been a life line as well as a means of interpreting the world around me and trying to make sense of it. I have found wisdom and inspiration in books as well as escape and relaxation. And thus, I mourn for those who are illiterate and for a culture where game boys, computers and t.v. are eclipsing library and quiet time.
I am already gearing up for the day in which my eye sight might fail me. In the event that this occurs, I will learn braille so that I can keep reading.
I don’t know what it is really that brings me such comfort from books but I know that if I have a book, like a child with her pacifier, I am okay and soothed. Perhaps it is the sense of sanctuary that books provide. In a world filled with chaos and dysfunction, it is reassuring to know one can move into another realm. Like slipping into a quiet church in the middle of midtown Manhattan, books allow us to both escape and transcend other dimensions.
Here’s to a Balm in Gilead. To the library as shrine. And may we all enjoy a little summer reading!