It’s not just the name of my favorite local bookstore. It’s who we are in my family, who we have always been.
I remember my grandmother reading the newspaper with her morning coffee. I sat quietly beside her at the table with my ‘coffee’ and longed for the day when I could read like a grownup. When she sat down to the organ or piano she read music. We all loved to gather round her as she played and sing a Christmas song or popular tune from the 1940’s, her fingers over the keys, feet on pedals. I still have her well-worn Bible, read by her, her mother, my mother, and me.
My parents love to read. My father likes classic poets and populars – Longfellow, Keats, Thoreau, Mark Twain. We shared a love for O’Henry’s stories rich in satire and irony. He studied Greek back in the day too, but to this day his favorite thing to read is westerns. Every paperback Louis L’Amour in print has been on his shelf. The Perry Mason mysteries series by Earl Stanley Gardner was a close runner up; those were my first mystery loves. My mother is a voracious reader – I think she has her own parking space at her local library. She reads fiction, biographies, books by political commentators, and history. Often when I am at her house I review her shelves for something current or interesting that hasn’t yet crossed my path.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read. It’s my favorite thing to do, right up there with writing. Extended family members gave me books for my birthday – I still have my copies of The Black Stallion, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. My mother used to try to get me to go outside and play; sometimes I did, but mostly I would find a shade tree to sit under and read my book. When my children were little I re-discovered childhood favorites; many of those books now sit on the shelves in my grandkids room, waiting for little fingers to pull one from its place. In their tween and teen years I read every parenting book I could get my hands on. Now they are grown with their own reading loves.
Much like his maternal grandmother, music is the reading that speaks to my son’s heart. He listens to the lyrics, occasionally singing along as he strums the bass or banjo. He reads a wide variety of material electronically but the words that speak the most to him are always accompanied by a melody.
Walking home from school it was not unusual for my daughter to take a wrong street because her nose was literally in a book. She always wound her way home of course, but it was the story not the street that mattered to her. She read Nancy Drew and Babysitters Club and quickly moved on to novels and mysteries, which she still loves. Her daughters are already strong readers in their own right. Molly loves a good mystery and adores series – currently she is listening to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books. Audio books are her thing; each night she falls asleep to her latest favorite.
Her sister Emily was reading at the 7th grade level in 3rd grade. I’ve always had a hard time keeping up with what she is currently interested in. She went through all the Nancy Drew mysteries in early elementary; not long after her fave was Harry Potter. Following on the heels of that was a craze for dragons and now she’s all about Warrior Cats and Percy Jackson and Greek mythology. At the ripe old age of 11 she can name her favorite authors and is working on her first book, modeled after the Warrior Cat stories. On a recent visit we stayed up one night and she explained not only each of her characters (and soon to be introduced characters) in detail but also showed me her sketches. She plans to illustrate her book as well.
While she was here I took her with me to a writers meeting. I knew she wouldn’t be interested in the speakers but afterward we would both be able to delight in walking the aisles of Book People. I told her that other writers may ask her if she was a writer and what she writes about, that is what we writers do. Sure enough, as we stepped into the elevator headed for the 3rd floor a fellow writer turned to Emily and asked, “Are you a writer?” “Yes,” she replied confidently. “What do you write?” he asked politely. “Give me your elevator pitch, just a quick what your story is about in 30 seconds.” Emily immediately began describing the setting of her book, the protagonist and antagonist, and which of her characters couldn’t be introduced yet and why. She was finishing up as the elevator doors opened, and I would give a million dollars to have a picture of the look on that man’s face. “Wow!” was all he could muster as we exited.
It makes sense that many of us who love to read are also writers. Good books have to come from somewhere, and where better than a well-read soul who wants to provide others with the same enjoyment. My favorite thing to write is blogs, stories, and essays, as my regular readers know. But I have books in me and over time they will have their say. Some of them are partially written, with pages of manuscript and notes patiently waiting in a folder. Some are still in my head, simmering on my brain’s back burners. One of them is a folder with a handful of random post-it notes containing ideas and reminders. Probably none of them will be in published form soon, but it’s possible that before they are you might be able to pick up a copy of Darkness on the Sunrise. Written by my granddaughter Emily. Who’s 11. Because we are Book People.