My first memories of the written word are like shadows, bouncing from the light of a kerosene lantern as my mother reads. Her voice is full of meaning, emotion, and I am spellbound. Three, maybe four years old, I listen to The Hobbit, and I want to be there, in the pages of that book. I want to be on that great adventure with Bilbo and I want to smell the pungent smoke of Gandalf’s pipe. And in many ways I am there, as the scenes unfold in my mind, painted by my mother’s love of words and the book she holds in her hands.
Chapter after chapter rolls from her tongue, dialogue smooth. She never trips over a word, never hesitates. Slowly, after hours of reading, her voice becomes dry, cracked. Broken. She coughs, and says she’ll continue tomorrow. We beg her to continue. My older brother heats the kettle on the pot belly stove, waiting for the whistle so he can make her a cup of tea: black with lime and honey, just the way she likes it. We cajole. She humors us and continues. Slowly my eyes grow heavy, my mind blurred between story and dream. I drift away, elf songs ringing in my mind. Somehow I have become part of this story and I will never be the same.
My mother loves science fiction and fantasy, so my reading teeth are cut on the likes of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Patricia McKillip, and Piers Anthony. I don’t understand much of what she reads at first, but I love the way words roll from her tongue. I love the inflection in her voice. I love that she loves what she’s reading.
And the idea dawns on me that I too, want to read. I want to do it on my own. I want to stand before her bookshelf and choose a thick tome with no pictures, and find a quiet place to curl up and discover mysteries in the written word.
“Mommy one day I’m going to read every book in this house,” I tell her.
And I do, several times over.
My passion for reading was caught, not taught. Can you remember when you first fell in love with books?