I find myself in an awkward situation. At the age of 26, after enjoying a long and wonderful streak of independence, I am moving back into my parents’ house. Making trips from downtown Sacramento to El Dorado Hills is exhausting, and the whole process is made more difficult because of my deep-seated desire for autonomy and the reality that I am losing much of that.
After shuffling things around in the room that is soon to be mine, I plunk down on the couch upstairs, feeling dejected and thoroughly frustrated with the situation. My thoughts and eyes wander, and I find myself looking at the shelves built in on the wall opposite. The shelves are stuffed with books. I cross over to them, running my hands down a row of titles, and feel a certain calm settle over me.
I have to stand on my toes to reach the shelf of children’s books that my parents have held on to, and I pull down a well-loved copy of Eric Carle’s “The Very Busy Spider.” The inscription inside reads,
“Happy first birthday, John. With love from Dave, Margarita, Melissa and Eric. 1986.”
I flip through the well-loved and rather battered pages. The first five of them are held in with packing tape and crackle as I turn them. This particular book has been read, and reread, and reread since before I was born.
Once I came into the family, the tradition of bibliophilia continued.
I have loved reading and books since I was too young to remember. One of the few family photos that is displayed in my parents’ house shows me, my brother, and Mom, reading in the back yard of our old house in Santa Maria. I am maybe two years old in the picture and am eagerly reaching to turn the page as my family looks on.
When it comes to print media, books are my favorite. My family has always had a daily newspaper in the house, and there are always car magazines coming in for my Dad, but books absolutely ignite me. As much as I love writing for newspapers and magazines, my heart starts racing when I think of having my name on the spine of a book. It is almost impossible to explain precisely why books hold such sway over me, but there is no getting around that fact. Books are among my first loves, and will always hold a special place in my heart.
Just last week, I was waiting for class to start and overheard two of my classmates talking about fantasy books. Brad mentioned that he was on the lookout for a new book to read, and Jonathan said, “Have you read ‘the Name of the Wind?’”
I nearly came out of my seat in excitement, and elbowed my way into their conversation, “You’ve read ‘Name of the Wind?’ That’s one of my favorite books! I only read it recently, but I can’t get over Patrick Rothfuss’ storytelling – it’s brilliant!”
Thus began a friendship. The three of us geeked out about books, and Jonathan provided Brad with a copy of “The Name of the Wind” so we can all talk about it. I recently heard a saying that seeing someone reading one of your favorite books is almost like having a good friend introduce the two of you. I couldn’t agree more.
Back at my parents’ house, I turn the final page of “The Very Busy Spider,” and I find myself feeling renewed. I put the book back on the shelf almost reluctantly, but I know that it and its cohorts will be waiting for me when I return with another carload of things from my studio. I was so worried that I would lose my refuge when I moved. Instead, I find that my sanctum can be found in text, in words, in stories (real or imagined) that capture my mind and my heart, all nestled in the pages of a book.
Originally written for Jour310 “Mass Media and Society” at Sacramento City College, Adviser Jan Haag, February 2014.
I was helping Mom out in the garage this afternoon, going through some of the old family stuff. This isn’t the picture I was talking about in this essay, but I love it anyway. Major throwback!