I was talking to a friend the other day and we were discussing books. I said that books have always been my friends. She did not understand at all. To her books are something one reads for one book club or another and then moves on to the next one. She will read twenty books or more in a month. I know! That is crazy talk to me. I love reading my books. I take time getting to know them and hearing what they have to say. But, each to their own.
I have always just…wallowed in books. They were my first friends when my mother read to me as a small child. They waited for me to get home from school. We stayed up into the night (with flashlight under covers) enjoying each other’s company. They never complained if I had to put them down to do something, and they waited right there until I came back to them. They didn’t need to be fed or walked.
The people in my books were not just characters but friends who lived full lives – before and after the outside covers. I had a hard time trusting real children my age, they often taunted me over my very petite size or how formal I was. It was just my nature, but they didn’t care. Children really can be so very cruel. But, my friends on paper were never cruel to me. Actually, I read how they solved problems or worked through issues over the course of fifty or five hundred pages. They taught me about life and how to live in the world.
Whether there was a secret garden to be discovered or ghosts in the attic, I could count on them to show me the way forward. I loved a little mouse who rode a motorcycle. I loved the English moors long before I saw them. I went all over the world without ever having to get up from my favorite window seat. Tiny homes, grand homes, boats, caravans, caves. I lived in all of them without once stepping foot outside.
Even now, I pick up old friends and reread them for the umpteenth time. Some must be in the hundreds over a fifty-odd year span. Some are dog-eared and so worn, but I would never get rid of them, they are perfect just as they are. Others have disappeared completely; though I have a feeling if I checked my daughters’ houses I might find a few. I just bought a new copy of Rebecca because I cannot find my ancient copy anywhere. So I have a new copy of an old friend. And that’s okay, because I know the story will be the same, even if the cover is different.
I enjoy finding new authors and new friends, but I always go back to my first loves. They kept me company when I felt so alone. They never disappointed me. They helped me through childhood traumas and grown-up growing pains. I didn’t just read those books, I savored them. I still do. So, I hope you will excuse me now, Rebecca is calling and I must go see what is happening in Manderley.