Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Girl Who Loves to Read (Non-fiction by your blogger)

It's a small town in south Texas. 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 are always the same, 25-30. 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, a police chief, one deputy. There are two dance halls, one a VFW hall, one an American Legion hall and at both you can hear country and 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 Mummy"  and other great monster movies but it closed). No bowling alley, no pizza palace, no Chinese restaurant. There was 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 for the next day that morphed into the best, the very best enchiladas you'd ever tasted. In this town was the grandest of homes. Read More...
The little girl didn't live in this house but her grandma did. And her grandma lived right next door to her parents’ home. Her grandma was all soft and cuddly 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 grandma lived in was a three story house with a two story veranda that seemed to wrap its arms three quarters of the way 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. There was a huge box filled with Life magazines from The War years. Smoke a Lucky Strike and you'll be glamorous. Ration so our troops will have the ammunition, tires, planes they need to shoot down the enemy. 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 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 imagine a life she thought she couldn't possibly live. Her grandma had an odd collection of books: Zane Grey Riders of the Purple Sage (1912), Frank Yerby and Reader's Digest Condensed books. And Gone with the Wind.  The girl would go up to the magical 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 passed 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 the men were tough and women knew how to shoot and ride as good as any man but still had a heart of gold. 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 these were the parts the girl liked best. And the girl will admit, she read those parts of the books over and over again. But 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. 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. Books still take the woman to places where she has never been, to places beyond the realm of possibility, to the past, to the present and to the future.

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Cicero 106BC-43BC

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