December 03, 2006

Where can I go

When I was in high school, the TV in our house died the quiet old whispering death that comes with too much much age. It simply gave up the ghost one day. My mother mentioned getting a replacement and I forbid it. There were books to read. TV is such a waste of time. So, for most of my teenage years, we were one of the stranger families of my friends. Most never mentioned that we didn't have a TV. I think they figured we couldn't afford it and didn't want to embarrass me by asking.

I recall long nights spent reading and rereading books. The words flowing across countless pages as I devoured them like a hungry animal. The caressed my mind and soothed my soul. They took me places I never imagined and introduced ideas I'd have never encountered on my own. I read the entire works of Guy de Maupassant sometime between 10 and 14. Many of these stories are not something a child should read and I can't imagine why my mother allowed me such graphic works. Perhaps she simply didn't know.

During the same time, I worked hard at a fast food ice cream chain. I'll leave the name unsaid, but eventually, I even learned how to make the famous swirl on top of the cone. I smelled of grease and fried burgers a good portion of the time. It's a smell you can't really get off your skin. I made friends easily with loose dogs in those days. I think they hoped I was carrying some morsel of the food I smelled of on the long walks home.

I was never bitter about my lot in life. I worked and I worked hard. I never considered that other kids didn't have to put in the long hours outside of school. I worked with many kids that were just like me. They worked to put gas in their cars, and to buy new cassette tapes to listen to on the drives. I bought clothes and food. Sometimes my mother would steal money from me to buy toilet paper. I was bitter about those thefts for years, but I imagine now that it was much harder for her to take the money.

I never stopped reading though. I'd come home late and pick up where I left off. Re-entering the fantasy just as I'd left it. A pause button built in somehow. I never considered what was going to happen next. The story would lead me where it wished. While I was under it's spell, I'd go where I was led and enjoy the freedom I'd achieved. I still read, but it's a rare feeling of excitement to un-pause the story and reenter a world that is not mine. I devour the words more slowly and perhaps with a greater intensity than I ever did before.

7 Comments:

At 11:56 AM, Blogger Buffalo said...

We didn't have a TV until I was almost 16. I was a voracious reader; and still am. In spite of her religious beliefs my reading was never, ever censored. I, also, read Maupassant at a very early age. Many of the books I read then I am now rediscovering. At first read I was too young to understand the nuances of the tales.

 
At 12:39 PM, Blogger lastlifeinmyuniverse said...

and ironically, reading has probably contributed to your intelligence compared to most who grew up on the idiotbox. they do call it an "idiotbox" for a reason.

 
At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

no worries there is always room for another monkey on exile island! *wink

 
At 3:02 PM, Blogger buddha_girl said...

You've brought me to tears with this post. Beautiful.

On a more flippant side...I've often referred to myself as a book whore. I adore losing myself within the pages of a well-written book.

 
At 10:11 AM, Blogger Schuyler said...

I like how re-reading a great book is slightly different every time. Things in your current life give story lines new meanings. I re-read Watership Down a few years ago. When I read it in Jr. High School, it was about growing up. Then when I read if during my divorce, it was more about being independent. (Which is growing up, no?) I'm currently re-reading The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings for the 20th+ time...

 
At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great post! I watched TV regularly as a kid, but it never surpassed my passion for books. I don't watch much TV nowadays, but the passion for books is stronger than ever.

 
At 5:26 PM, Blogger bike&beer said...

i do think that some books need to be read for the first time when one is relatively young to make an impression, and then to be re-read with different insights throughout one's life. for instance, lots of people like catcher in the rye because they read it when they were in their teens. i read it for the first time in my 30's and didn't find it appealing at all (sorry all catcher lovers!). i believe a book read when you are in your late teens and college years is like a friend from when you are that age -- goes through tough times with you, and it's always a good companion to have back...

 

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