I have never had nothing to read… please excuse the double negative but it seemed necessary here.
There have always been unread books on my shelf. The ones waiting for me now range from mindless fiction to the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Most of my books come from my mother (maybe not the Tibetan Book of the Dead – that’s another story for another day). A voracious reader, she devours novels like air. She reads consistently and regularly. As long as I can remember she’s had a book in her purse and a stack on her bedside table. My all-too-infrequent visits to her house result in stacks of already digested books waiting for me to peruse and take home. In my single days I used to pace her about one for every two she read… now her cast-offs overflow both my book shelf and the bedside table. In fact, the latest batch still sit in a bag waiting for me to invent a place to store them. It may take decades but I fully intend to read every one.
I love this legacy from her. It is thanks to her that my life is steeped in words. As a baby my crib was nestled into a corner of the library. I was surrounded by make-shift book shelves of concrete blocks and wooden boards housing hundreds of books. As a child my breakfast, lunch and dinner were all accompanied by a choir of CBC radio voices telling stories of all kinds; real and fiction, funny and tragic. My 16th birthday present was a treasured collection of Tennyson poems.
Armed with my mother’s education, I entered adulthood with an intimidating vocabulary, an unfortunate handicap with spelling (though not for lack of trying on her part!) and a preset destiny to craft the written word. This gift will always connect me with her… in fact it will connect my children too. Already, at 4, Big Dude surprises his teachers and confuses his friends with words like obstacle, privacy and gargantuan. Books already overflow the shelves in his room and I love the idea of passing on this love for words that has shaped so much of my life.
I have been doing a lot of reflection lately, both in my writing and in my life. I have no answers but I have come to one realization. Life and its frailties may leave me lonely for my mother’s company, but as long as there are books on my shelf and words in my pen, she will never leave me. This is her gift to me… and I treasure it.