Diving In

Image from David Small's graphic memoir "Stitches"

Writing prompt for the day:

“Tell me how you first learned to read”

I don’t remember learning how to read. But I do remember wanting to be able to jump into the books I read.

I thought I could.

Lying on my stomach in my room in Laramie, WY I was reading the most captivating story. I had to been abour 4 or so. I have no idea what amazing story I was reading, but it had to be fantastic. With the book splayed open on the grey shaggy carpet in front of me, I knew I wanted to be in there. IN THERE–with those characters and the story.

So I got up and jumped. I jumped right on top of that book. But I couldn’t get in. I tried again. Jump. Nothing. Jump. Nothing. I remember feeling my long french braids hitting the base of my neck with each bounce; each tip hitting me with another instance of failure. I wanted those braids to soar upwards as I flew down the long tunnel into the story. Jump. Nothing. By the fifth time I was just stomping my foot on the book, frustrated that they–all of those that were in the marvelous little story-land world–were keeping me locked out. Why wouldn’t they let me in? I just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t physically be a part of the story. I wanted to live the story so bad!

Of course I didn’t have the perspective in my little four year old eyes to understand that just by reading the book I was in a way keeping it alive. All I knew is that I wanted to be in there.

This is when literature became a form of escape. In this instance I literally wanted to escape my present position and dive into a different setting. The hard lesson I learned here is that while there are no limits to the imagination, reality is unfortunately hard and bound by its own existence.

I also never remember myself as being a voracious reader–I simply read.

I remember poolside reading sessions I had while living in California. Goosebumps, The Indian in the Cupboard, and The Boxcar Children were my favorites to read on the lush trees that lined my friend’s backyard pool. Later on I read books assigned for homework in high school while pacing back and forth over the green carpet of my room, because the movement helped me to flip through the pages faster as I became a pro at procrastination. This reading wasn’t enjoyable, but it got done. Somewhere in my brain I was also conscious of multi-tasking–giving the legs a workout while getting things done in my brain, too. This habit would spill over into my college reading career as I frequently worked out on a stationary bike while reading my notes from my sociology or genetics classes.

I don’t remember when carrying a book with me at all times became such a big deal–it was probably around the time I discovered zines and realized I could start fitting reading materials in my back pocket. I’ve locked myself out of my apartment before due to forgetting my keys, but I’ve never been standing in a line, riding a bus, or sitting anywhere in public without reading material in my hands. Like hitting puberty, there was a slow emergence of books in my hands as my breasts also emerged. Although, unlike puberty my breasts stopped growing shortly after that first burst, but my reading continues to mature.

I’ve also never been a fast reader. I take my time digesting each word. It isn’t just a house written on the page, but there’s the house I see in my mind–its color, the light hitting each window, the fresh smell of the grass and trees around it, the damp concrete stairs that lead down to the dark basement, and the warm smell of the kitchen in the late afternoons–and it’s that house that I witness with each mention of the word. I can’t skim any text because I don’t want to stay floating. Each word is a little movie in my mind, and I don’t want to ever fast forward through the picture. I want to dive deep in. Where my attempts to physically jump into the book failed me, I’ve presently learned how to mentally submerge myself in satisfaction.

Please share your own stories in the comments section!

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