Monday, November 11, 2013

A Moveable Read

Below, please find the first exercise submitted to the Harold B. Pricklepants Society, Scribbler's Edition.  We, being a club of readers endeavoring to become better writers as well, have pledged to write a weekly piece for blog publication and the sharing thereof with our friends, family, and readers.  Please feel free to comment.  Please feel even freer to submit your own piece, notifying our society of your intent to join us as we follow in the inspiring footsteps of Miss Austen, the Misses Bronte, Mr. Lewis, and so many, many more who hopped up to journey down a barely trodden path braved by Moses, and later Chaucer and Shakespeare as we English speakers joined the party.  Read, enjoy, live.  All are welcome to meet in this wonderful place of words hosted by The Harold B. Pricklepants Society .  For other readable entries, please visit Elizabeth and Lydia  at their lovely blogs.  I would love to link your blog.  Just ask.  : D
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A Moveable Read

Reading came to me as naturally as breathing.  I cannot really recall a time in my life before the presence of books.  The secure softness of my favorite “blankies” complimented the cardboard-stiff covers of my beloved The Three Bears Golden Book.  I begged my parents (and any one else I met) to read it to me; and, legend has it, by the age of two I had the entire book memorized word-for-word.  I performed the classic parlor trick of “reading” to astonished relatives and guests, turning the pages precisely, intoning with just the right dramatic flair as chairs crashed and porridge cooled.  My parents, neither fond of reading, found my penchant for “reading” odd and a tad bit frightening, yet they indulged me with books over Barbies and I happily went about the business of teaching myself to read.

Before entering school, I could write out my entire name – Debbie Ann Stugelmeyer – and read without assistance.  (I have always found it surprising that my parents bragged far louder about my prowess in spelling “Stugelmeyer,” than about my ability to read The Cat in the Hat and other Seussian classics.)  Thus, I entered school eager to discover the world beyond book-of-the-month clubs and bookmobile visits of my little life.

Each new school I attended (of which I attended several, for a vagabonding childhood necessitates the changing of schools) had a new library to be explored; and each corresponding address change had a Public Library to be experienced.  I eagerly introduced myself to each resident librarian, asking directions to new gateways of adventure.  I browsed, sampled, and selected armloads of tales.  Some journeys took me through war-torn lands or disease-infested jungles; others carried me aloft on the wings of hope found in loving adoptions or romantic happily-ever-afters.  I boarded ocean liners bound for Europe, traveled in jalopies through the Dust Bowl, and most avidly read of prairie schooners carrying pioneers to new lands.  Some books talked of worlds most fantastic, while others shed light on long-ago times; but, each and every book carried me breathlessly through to The End, whereupon I scurried back to the library for the next great read on my list.  What a feast I found at the library – and all for free!

At home, my little private library continued to grow as birthday presents and holiday gifts increasingly held bound stories worthy of being preserved in my library.  Dr. Seuss and the Golden Books moved down a bit to make room for Laura Ingalls and Trina, along with Katie John, Caddie Woodlawn, and my most favorite heroine:  Robin of The Velvet Room.  Each pending change of address had me ensuring that each precious volume made it into a box marked “Debbie’s Books” and onto the truck by my own locomotion.  I took no chances with this precious cargo.  On occasion, I would panic as a tidal wave of boxes flooded our new residence and my books could not be located.  “Where are my books?” I wailed, certain that they had toppled off the truck as we careened over a set of railroad tracks in the dark of night.  I pictured the box thrown violently to the ground, torn asunder, spilling its fragile contents into the path of doom from oncoming cars, wild animals, or gully-washing storms.  (Along with an ever growing appetite for books, I nurtured a taste for drama that quickly enveloped my emerging adolescence.)  Panicking did little to aid in locating the errant box, which always turned up safe and sound amongst the linens and toys, kitchenware and mementos.  Once “Debbie’s Books” had been located, I scurried away to my room (or my side of the room) and set about unpacking and settling Jane Eyre and Dr Seuss and all the rest.  I would sit back and sigh with contentment while each binding smiled back at me, “We’re home.” 

As I grew, wisdom bade me select a unique and easily identifiable box to house my library-on-the-move.  A white “Inglenook” wine box served perfectly to cosset my treasures within its sturdy sides.  (Wine bottles, like books, require careful handling, I noted as I marveled at the doubly-reinforced cardboard.)  The bright white box color stood out splendidly in a sea of ordinary brown moving cartons, thus I never again fretted at locating MY box.  Once the box had been duly located and unpacked at the newest destination, I carefully stored it away in my closet for the next move, which would surely be sooner than hoped for. 

Years passed, several more addresses took up residence next to my name and my cache of treasured books rode safely to each new abode in their increasingly battered container.  Then along came time to pack for college.

Only essentials followed me to UCLA.  Sadly, at 18 years of age, I no longer had the room for my most constant “childhood friends.”  My one-bedroom apartment, to be shared by three freshmen girls, possessed but a single half-sized bookcase, of which I gained ownership of one mere shelf.  “Sorry Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennet, Scarlett O’Hara, and Mr. Cat in the Hat and friends,” I apologized, “ You’re not moving to the Big City with me this time.”  I drove away with sheets and towels and a brand-new dictionary rather than my steadfast library buddies, whom I left in my younger sister’s charge.

Years passed, I graduated with a degree in English, married a sweet heart of a man, and we eventually bought our First Home (a condo, actually).  I relieved my father-in-law of the stuff I had packed away in his shed years back when I moved from the tiny freshman apartment to a tinier room in a sorority house.  Then I visited my mom at her newest address to retrieve what few items she had offered to store for me since I left for college.  We successfully located a box of high-school-and-before memorabilia (like my first yo-yo and a packet of stickers I received as a gift the day my newborn sister arrived home from the hospital in 1966), some badly-dated LP records, and a stash of heirloom pillowcases embroidered by my great-grandmother.  Sadly, the Inglenook box of library treasures had vanished during one or another of recent moving events.     

I confronted my sister, with a bit more anger than warranted, regarding the missing library and her lack of stewardship of such prized possessions left in her care.  She stared back blankly and said, “Books?  What books?”  

“Gone . . .” I mouthed in despair, the drama of long ago still very much alive in me. 

I left with several boxes but no nostalgic library.

Life trundled on, carrying me along to greet three babies, a new address, and then two more babies.  I gathered many, many books along the way, though they never quite took the place of my first literary loves. 

One day, we packed up and moved far away to a larger place that would house my family of seven plus my mother, whose health required nursing care.  Boxes and boxes of books filled the trucks alongside our family belongings marked, “toys,” “kitchen,” and more.  A wave of boxes flooded the large garage, and soon a second wave of boxes belonging to my mother joined them.  As I surveyed and sifted the myriad of moved materials, attempting to formulate a plan of action (or should I say, attack?), I espied a rather disheveled white box in the distance.  “Can it be?” I whispered as I hurtled over two lifetimes’ worth of accumulation.  I pulled the tattered box free, faintly hoping to find the beloved “Inglenook” label emblazoned on the side.  “IT IS!” I shouted as I tore away what remained of the box top flaps. 

I have no idea how long I sat on that garage floor, surrounded by boxes and debris, as I lovingly lifted and gazed on each long-lost book.  More than twenty years had passed since I had seen these editions . . . my books . . .  my very first library!  These dear treasures and friends had somehow slipped into a dark corner of a distant storage cell and languished forgotten and alone, until now. 

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“Hey mom,” called my 10-year-old daughter, “Are you out here?”

“Yes,” I sputtered, “Yes, I am!  Come on out here!  I want you to meet some folks I knew a long time ago.”