As I look back upon my childhood and think upon the happy times, I find that they all have a common theme. The written word is what ties all my memories together.
As a very young girl I remember my nightly ritual with my great grandfather. Before dinner he would read the daily paper, after dinner was my time. He would set aside the comic's section just for me because even then I was an anal retentive child and wanted the edges to line up just so when I folded the paper. I would crawl into his lap and I would follow his finger as he would read the comics aloud to me. It became a game, would I notice when he skipped an entire panel? Better yet, would I catch that he had skipped a single word? I almost always did. I remember the happiness I felt as we shared our special moment every night.
I still remember being the first child in my Kindergarten class to read, something they didn't teach at that level. I took one of my favorite books to school for show and tell. My teacher thought I would simply repeat what I'd memorized of the story and what I could draw from the pictures. I heard her talking to my great grandmother after class that day, she had been amazed when she'd walked behind me as I was reading to the class and realized that I was indeed reading the story, word for word. I think that was one of the very few times that I felt like I had really made my Nanny proud of me.
As I grew older and branched out on my own I would occasionally come across a word that I couldn't figure out on my own by using the context. I often took those words to Nanny and asked her what they meant. It was never a case of simply telling me what they meant. She would pull out the dictionary and we would look the word up together. Before long I was going to the dictionary on my own and eventually I had my own copy as we had worn hers to tatters.
By the time I reached junior high I was finally allowed to go to the library by myself. We only lived three blocks away so I was allowed to walk up there and back alone. Considering I was the baby of the family and very over protected, that was a huge deal to me. At least once a week I would gather up all my books, and by this time I was well into Stephen King and the like, so they weren't the typical rather thin young adult novels, and carry them up to the library. The ladies behind the desk knew me well by then and I was always greeted with a smile. I think I was one of the few that treated the books with as much care as they did, pointing out loose pages and such. I would pick out at least 5 friends and check them out for a week. The trip home was always with my nose buried between pages as I navigated my way back downhill, around trees, and through crosswalks. The reading while walking skill served me well in high school as I would often make my way through the crowded halls with a book in front of my face. Several teachers commented that they were surprised I never fell down the stairs while so occupied. No, for some reason I seemed to only do that when I didn't have a book in my hand.
Books were my best friends in a world that I didn't understand.