catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 3 :: 2011.02.11 — 2011.02.24


My childhood friends

I brushed a thin layer of dust off the top of the worn cardboard box and then wiped my hand on the leg of my jeans. I sat cross-legged in the attic of my in-laws’ office building surrounded by boxes of my childhood. This particular box was labeled “books.” A wide grin crossed my face as I gently picked each old friend out of the box. Memories flooded my mind as I recounted countless hours sitting outside on my parents’ swing, the wind ruffling through my hair as I journeyed to lands far away and long ago.

Little House on the Prairie. Nancy Drew. The Bobsey Twins. Grandma’s Attic. Anne of Green Gables. The characters on those pages had been some of my best friends through the years. Their tales sparked my imagination and a love for words that lingers into my adulthood.

Slowly, I picked my way through the books impressed with the stack that was growing next to me. I hadn’t realized just how many books my parents had purchased for me. Now, as parent to two little ones of my own, I know that the cost of books adds up and ranks below the never ending necessities of milk, bread and clothing. Yet somehow, on a single income, my family had lavished me with books.

I returned the books to the box and hefted it down the stairs and loaded it into my car, eager to begin sharing my dear old friends with my daughter. I called my Mom. “Hey, I just found a box of all my childhood books. I really can’t believe how many books you and Dad bought me when I was a kid. Thank you.” I could hear my Mom’s smile on the other end of the line. “You loved to read, and it was something we wanted to encourage. Besides, every birthday and Christmas all you asked for were books!”

My love of reading started early. While being fitted for my first pair of glasses in the second grade, the doctor urged my Mom that I should get outside more often. “Oh, she’s outside all the time…reading,” my Mom replied. I had a flashlight I kept in my bedroom and I’d read long after lights out, unable to put a book down, needing to know what happened next. As an adult, I discovered that my after bedtime reading habit was no secret. And yet, my parents never confiscated my flashlight.

Now, a six-year-old girl snuggles into the crook of my arm. She holds a book from her school library called Soup. She’s just been admitted into the Advanced Reading program, a privilege for a kindergartner. She sits next to me, and I listen amazed as she sounds out each word and then re-reads the page smoothly. Her chest puffs up just a bit with each page her little hand turns. A word stumps her. It’s not phonetic and she stumbles around it then looks to me for help. “Why don’t you look at the picture and see if you can figure it out.” A lightbulb shines in her eyes. She turns back to the page and then exclaims, “Steam!” Victory.

She reads the book to me again. And again. And I relish the moment because I know soon, she’ll hole up in her bedroom or in the backyard, no longer needing my assistance, engrossed in adventures new friends will take her on — adventures she will be able to navigate without my help.

And when she’s ready, I have a stack of old friends to introduce her to. 

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