The Illustration Friday word of the week is book.
I don’t remember ever being read to, or seeing books around the house other than the prerequisite set of Encyclopedia Britannica, a Webster’s Dictionary, and several versions of the Bible. (This was the door-to-door salesman generation.) There were piles of Life, National Geographic and Ladies Home Journal magazines, plus a couple of cookbooks, but there were no novels, short stories or picture books. Thank goodness, the clarion call to the world of the book still found me.
I remember the consistent serenity of libraries in every town my father moved us to. (There were a lot of towns.) I remember the smell and feel of the books themselves, and the thrill of being able to borrow any book I wanted and pretend that I owned it for a while. (I still feel that.) But the real draw of libraries and books was that I could disappear–from family, from the neighborhood, from my own small life. Years later, when I visited Kennedy National Airport for the first time, I realized that that was exactly what a library and books felt like to me…all the directions that one could go in from a single spot. Magic!
Even more years later, when my maternal grandfather died, a good portion of his books came into my parent’s possession. There were hundred of books: technical manuals, philosophy, spiritual and some classic novels. They all went into the spare room at the bottom of the house and subsequently got damp and moldy. (A heinous crime in my opinion.) But the significance of those books, most of which were leather-bound and hand-sewn with fine quality paper, was the realization that the love of books had skipped a generation in my family. There was nothing wrong with me at all!
I had other hobbies. I liked to sew, cook and draw things. I liked to be outside with pollywogs, leaves and rocks. But the thing that kept me up late at night, after everyone else’s lights were turned out, was not a new dress or a painting. It was a book that I was ruining my eyes with, by flashlight under the covers. I must have been sleep-deprived most of my adolescent years…
Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, all the Black Stallion Books, Trixie Belden and Pippi Longstocking were my childhood friends. Books made up for a lot that was lacking in my suburban life, and introduced me to things that I never would have experienced in person. Books still do that for me. They are the glue that connects me to the rest of the world. I’m not a kid anymore, but if a fire was threatening my house, I know exactly which things I would throw into the car. Most of them would be books.
“Read Me a Story” (watercolor, pen & ink, pencil) See it in the Etsy shop (including close-ups) here.