Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Girl Who Loves to Read: An Autobiography of Me, Your Blogger

It's a small town not unlike small towns all over the country. Population 900, three churches, one Lutheran , one Catholic and one Baptist. The elementary school is one long rectangular building with classrooms on each side of a long corridor. In the first grade there are a total of 30 kids. In the second grade a total of 25. And as you go up to higher grades, the numbers never vary. The business district of the town is primarily one long street with a pharmacy, shoe repair, meat market, bank, general store and several "pool" halls where residents of the town smoke cigarettes, cigars, down beer but above all play dominoes and pool. No traffic lights, one cop, one deputy. There are two dance halls, one a VFW hall, one an American Legion hall and at both you can hear country western and "Ompah" music play into the night. No movie theatre (there used to be one where the girl and her older sister went to see Tom Dooley and The Mummyand other great monster movies but it closed and the girl and her sister never knew why). No bowling alley, no pizza joint, no Chinese restaurant. Just a great diner and one "joint" that made the best, the very best chili where the grease floated to the top and you dunked your homemade bread into it and it was pure heaven. Then, if there was any chili left over, that morphed into the best, the very best enchiladas you'd ever taste. In this town was the grandest of homes. The little girl didn't live in this house but her grandmother did. And her grandmother lived right next door to her parent's home. Her grandma was all soft and full of stories and tall tales. Her grandma was the best cook ever. Chicken fried steak with milk gravy, pot roast with mashed potatoes, fried chicken, peach pie, apple pie, dewberry pie, banana pudding, rice pudding (and that was the girl's favorite, with red hots in it!) The house her grandmother lived in was a three story house with a two story veranda that seemed to wrap it's arms three quarters around the house. The main floor had your basic kitchen, living room, bedroom, parlor, bathrooms. It was the second floor that brought magic to the girl. Her grandma had not changed the decor since before her children grew up and moved away. It was a second floor stuck in the 1930's and 40's. The girl's grandma never threw anything away and so there were dresses and hats and shoes and hose and ties and handkerchiefs and suits. But the best of all were the Life magazines from the War years. Smoke a Lucky Strike and you'll be glamorous. Ration to save so our troops will have the ammunition, tires, planes they need to shoot down the japs and the krauts. Another world to the girl. Up here, her grandma also had her small library. The girl's grandma had not finished the 3rd grade, but she had taught herself to read. So, during those hot, simmering summer days when it could easily reach a 100 degrees, the girl would go up to her grandma's second floor and disappear. Disappear into those magazines and those few books. What else was there to do? Bike around a town you've biked around a million times? Go play in the hay bales you've played in a million times? No. For the girl she wanted a book that would let her live a life she couldn't possibly live otherwise. Or, at least at that time, that is what she thought. Her grandma had an odd collection of books, Zane Grey, Frank Yerby and Reader's Digest Condensed books. And Gone with the Wind. The girl would go up into the magic second floor and stay from morning until the sunset. Lying on her back in a big, old bed covered in yellowing lace with a fan blowing and at times, watching dust float in the air as it passes through the sunlight streaming through the open window. This was her world and she loved it. Her world shifted from the dry arid plains of the west where men were tough and women knew how to shoot and ride as good as any man. And she dreamed of Rhett Butler. Then she was off to the Caribbean to where the strong, handsome stranger saves the life of a beautiful damsel in distress and as time passes, they eventually fall in love and make wild passionate love. Now this was the part the girl liked best. And the girl read those parts of the books over and over again. One day the girl's mother came in unannounced and saw what the girl was reading and she was furious. She blamed the girl's grandma for letting her read those books. But, you see, the girl had lied to her grandma and told her she would not read them. So, now she was in double trouble and the girl was no longer allowed to read at her grandmas anymore. With a lie, her special world crumbled. But her love of reading never went away. As soon as she could, she went to a big college in a big city and started to live a life she never thought she could. The girl is now a woman and has surrounded herself with books. Her husband says that a book store to her is like what honey is to a bee. The girl now owns first editions of the Frank Yerby books and she has a complete collection of those Zane Grey novels. And off she goes into her own magic world created by her love of reading.....

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