Being ever diligent, I decided to go through my books from ages past on a particularly lovely Sunday afternoon. I’d finally set up my bookcase, and wanted it to look properly resourceful and suitably intelligent. I figured I needed books that were “just so” to accomplish this task, so I set about plundering and pillaging through the volumes of volumes. In doing this, I found it. I found the juggernaut. And I use that term in the sense of its definition as an irresistible force. Staring up at me from trembling hands was the tattered, dog-eared, buck-and-a-quarter cover of the small book that began my obsession with reading. It was most definitely a portentous moment.
Some may consider this little children’s manual something not worth the effort, but A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L’Engle was a driving force in the shaping of my identity.
When I was a wee lass, I was painfully shy. Sometimes I would feel actual, physical pain – not to mention gut-wrenching panic – when confronted with even the idea of having to do anything like a book report or a presentation. Even in a group. But this book turned me into a fantast. It was a minimal 190 pages in length. And when it was over, I wanted more. I wanted so much more.
As irony would have it, the little bastards with whom I attended school found this interest of mine an endless source of amusement. I was teased mercilessly about the books I read, and basically turned into even more of a recluse. But whereas before I had been a sort of prepubescent hermit in my own thoughts as well, now I had this outlet. In my mind, in my fantasies, I was something those kids would never be. They couldn’t travel to the places my imagination took me. Nor could they hurt me there. I was immortal, invincible, and irrepressible. And I was insatiable when it came to new tomes of fantastical tales. A fact that remains true to this day.
I can’t tell you what it means to me to be able to escape the mundane existence to which I feel I’ve been condemned at times. (Oy. Talk about melodrama.) I don’t think anyone, save another text-devouring someone, could understand the heights to which you can be lifted when you live a dream that could never be reality. Even today, I still use this escape when I need to ease pain or unrest within myself, whether mental or physical. Does that make sense? It does to me.
When I close my eyes, I’m still that eternal heroine of my childhood, armed only with words sharp as knives and courage to rival that of the bravest warrior. And I can tell you this: that little book – battered and torn in half as it is – now has a place of reverence in my otherwise adult bookrack.