As a kid, I would head straight towards the back left of the store. Past the jewelry, past the clothes, past the toys. I had one aim: books. I now joke about how my mom would tell me that we could only afford one option for me: a new shirt or a couple books? And the answer was always books. One of the employees knew my love for The Babysitter Club and Sweet Valley Twins/High books, so she would put them aside. I started to make a written collection of all the books I had in those series so that I wouldn’t waste my mom’s 25-50 cents on duplicates.
Without fail, those memories make me think about my life now. How I make more money in a year now than my mom did at that time. How instead of reading, I spend six hours on a Saturday watching The Mentalist. How the idea of buying a $15 book doesn’t phase me much. How I don’t save very much money even though I have no one to support.
What amazes me most about my childhood is how my mom made it work. For real. Like how even? But I also feel awe at the eleven year old girl who would hide out in her room all day in the summer just to read. How incredible that when given the choice of clothing or reading, I chose to read. It amazes me because it isn’t the choice I would make now. I would pick both. If I could not afford both, I would pick the clothes and trust the book to still be there when I could afford it. On Amazon. With free 2 day shipping. But growing up, that option wasn’t there. The book may not be there. I knew I would not be able to buy it new. My chance was now. I don’t think I ever had a book on my bookshelf that was left unread. That became something that happened as I got older, and books became more of a status or a second-option. I formed a “To Read” list, something I never had growing up. Growing up, it was simply “grab whatever looks good at Salvation Army and beg mom to spend an extra dollar on me today.”
Last year, I read 32 books… some were fiction, some non-fic. This year hasn’t been as successful: 8 in total and it’s nearly August. Last year, from when I got my job until the end of the year, I felt as though I were on a mission to re-dive into a passion that I had forgotten. I checked most out from the library, but bought a few of them. I read many YA fiction because I love them, and I have to stop letting “status” be an issue. I put books down that I wasn’t enjoying and didn’t finish them. I paused reading Amy Poehler’s book to read a fiction book, and then picked up Yes Please with an eager heart.
I don’t have a “point” in posting this blog. Only to remember what it felt like to love reading more than anything else. Even the 32 books I read last year were mostly because I had the time: I spent over 2ish hours on a train or waiting for a train each day. I honestly could have read a LOT more. I wasted a lot of time.
Lately I’ve been playing a lot of sodoku on my phone. Or binge watching Criminal Minds or The Mentalist. I never lose my desire for storytelling, but I lost my desire for reading (4 of the 8 books I read happened over 2 days. So the other 4 are all I’ve read this year outside of that. And half of Mindy Kaling’s book was read last year. So. 3 1/2.) Right now if I could make more time in the day, I don’t even know what I would want to fill it with. Sleep, if I’m honest.
Here’s that secret, I guess: we do have time in that day. We can make more time. I don’t need to watch 10 episode of The Mentalist on a rainy Saturday, but I do.
As a child, I distinctly remember going to Barnes and Nobles once in the year 2000 to actually buy. I imagined what it would be like to find my name among the authors of B&N. (I also realized how awful Horak was for a last name. Would anyone buy a book from an author with the last name Horak? Then again, the last year I’ve read 4 books from an author whose first name is Rainbow. Anything is possible.) My mom had a surprise for me. She wanted me to pick out a couple books to buy. What the HELL does a 9 year old do in that situation? One who is used to used, beat up Sweet Valley Twin books and hoping to find one she hasn’t read on the shelves of a Salvation Army (Also unrelated: PRAISE to authors who write stand-alone plotlines in all of their series. As someone who didn’t have access to buy books in order, this was seriously so good.) Suddenly I’m surrounded by brand new books, and I can have anything I wanted. Guess what happened?
I couldn’t decide. I was frozen. My mom suggested what was on the display: the latest Harry Potter book. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I shrugged; I remembered picking up the first book from Salvation Army, reading one chapter, and putting the book down (which I never did) because it was confusing and weird. But it was so popular that I decided I would try again. So we bought books 2, 3, and 4. THREE BOOKS. AT FULL PRICE. HARD COVERS. What comes next?
I ate those books up as quickly as any used book I had ever had. Suddenly I had finished the fourth book, my mom was shaking her head in despair (I understand now why I never got books as gifts), and I was READY for book 5. (And sadly would have the longest wait between books for that.) By the time the last book came out in 2007, I remember pre-ordering two copies so that my high school boyfriend and I wouldn’t have to wait for the other to finish. Which to me means that within a few books coming out in a series, I went from a girl to whom a new book was a lavish expensive and rarely done… into a girl who didn’t mind spending an extra $20 for the convenience of reading the latest book right away. It means a lot to me that I still have all my copies of those books. While their popularity was great and the obsession was fun, a completely different person read those early books as who read that final book. Like Harry, I changed with the world I fell into.
I would love to stock Salvation Armys and Goodwills across the country with books (if I thought they were going to sell it for a quarter.) I think people who buy used books at those places and sell for a profit are jerks. I think the desire to read and know more and have more stories has helped turn me into the type of person I am: someone who desires to grow and to understand people better, someone who is not content to live only within her own world.
All this to say, keep childlike passions close to your heart. Remember what you would have done at all costs as a kid.