Posts Tagged ‘books’

She likes books…

Books are almost as important as food to me. Certainly more important than clothing. After the basic necessities of shelter and warmth, food and drink, books come next. At this point in my life, I have thousands of books in my house. They are like inanimate friends. I find it close to miraculous that a bound volume can impart an idea, a dialogue, tell a story.

It was not always like this. Once upon a time books were nice but not necessary. My early childhood was full of books, from my parents, particularly my father, and the base library. My father unleashed me in the base library, and when I had finished the children’s section, he showed me where the religious books were, particularly, “The Screwtape Letters”. Alright, perhaps that was a tad precocious for an eight-year-old. He pointed out with his broad, clean hands, where to find the imprimatur. Daddy had a way of letting you go where you could, intellectually.

A small digression. I had a hard time learning to read, because I was so traumatized by the whole process of going to school. (That’s yet another story). Now I know about Highly Sensitive Children. Back in those muddleheaded early sixties, I was put in a low achievement reading circle where I could feel the disdain of the grumpy teacher. My mother then embarked on teaching me to read, and it clicked and my life changed miraculously. Mind you, I was five and in first grade. I didn’t really even know my own last name, and every day was a wrench to leave my home and get on that blue school bus full of exhuberant American children.  I would look out the window and feel lost, until the end of the day when the school bus would deliver me home again.

By the time I was on cruise control regarding reading, it was time to go back to the States.

Then we had a year in Albuquerque, New Mexico and a part of a year in Kailua, Hawaii, then we went back to the Philippines.

When I lived in US Territory, (that meant Clark AFB and the USA), books were of average importance. I remember television was more important than reading.

The first year we were back in the Philippines, we lived at the beach. I was turning 12, I’m not sure what month we arrived, but I feel it must have been February because my cousin, Carissa, was a tiny baby, and she was born in January. The grown ups were still buzzing about her birth story.

The circumstances of our return were somewhat traumatic, but ultimately a gift. We were passing by the beach, on our way to Baguio where an empty house stood waiting for us. But, once we were there, really and truly at the beach, at Cresta Ola, then how could our mother make the decision to send us up the mountain?

So we had a superb interlude at the beach. The only things lacking were books. It was after all, a beach resort. After a week of being overwhelmed with my good luck of being back, I started to look for something to read.

I found the Sunday Magazine that carried a beauty on the cover. There was the daily newspaper. In a drawer in the office I found some Pentecostal magazines that showed snake handlers, then, another travel magazine covering accupuncture in China. There was one copy of “Old Yeller”, and so I read that.

Soon, there was a trip to Baguio and into the big old house I rushed and went straight for my Lolo’s library. Three walls of bookshelves surrounded me, with my baby pictures along the top and an old statue of St. Martin de Porres. He had an extensive library of Catholic books, and so I started reading about mystics and miracles, and dire predictions.

The following year we moved to Baguio full time, and my access to books was limited by what was carried at CID Educational supply and the small library at St. Theresa’s. Still, I marshaled on and discovered Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Then we had access for a while to the Base Library at Camp John Hay. I loved that place.

One summer in pursuit of books across the attic, I stepped on a board and went right through the ceiling, landing 10 feet below in the middle of a dance floor in the restaurant rented out from the house. But that is another story.

During the school vacations, we would often head down to the beach. One year my Auntie Mary Anne was teaching at St. Louis College nearby. They had a small library, made up mostly of donations from the American era. There was a collection of girl’s literature, stories of American girls headed off to school in the 1920’s. Set in a specific time and place, these stories filled my head with images of ice skating, and tobogganing, taffy pulls and bonfires.

I remember sitting in the living room of the beach house feeling the sweat pour down my face while reading of snow.

Back in Baguio, we still had a US post office box, so we received magazines and newspapers. Women’s Wear Daily, Seventeen, American Girl, Vogue, Boy’s Life brought images of life on the other side of the world. There was Time and Newsweek and even the Wall Street Journal.

Still, we didn’t have access to that universe of books that I knew was out there.

Then, martial law was declared and the free-wheeling Philippines press was shut down. Our post office box was taken away. Here, my book access flowed to a stop.

From 1972-to 1978, I never had all I wanted to read. Sometimes I would go to National Bookstore and stand reading. I never got my fill.

And then, dear blog readers, I returned to the USA, and started my own book collection. I haven’t stopped, nor do I want to.

I love books, the heft and the print and the feel of the turning page. Like a child who didn’t get enough to eat, I didn’t get enough to read and I’m still filling the void.

Now that spring is coming, we are about to embark on the best of New England traditions, the book sale. Under tents and in halls, in church basements and libraries themselves, thousands and thousands of books will be offered for cents. Oh the thrill of the chase. Oh the victory of the found volume.

New England is a reading intensive and book-full region. For this I am so grateful.

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