Friday, May 9, 2014

FRESH ON FRIDAY: Thank the One Who Brung Ya

MAYBE SHE DID IT to shut me up, but my grandmother taught me to read. 
   I only remember five books in our house, growing up. There was a pocket-sized volume on tree identification (used by my father when he worked trimming trees for the phone company), The Illinois Blue Book (free for the asking from the state every year, it taught you that corn and strip-mined coal were two of the most important commodities on earth, and that Abraham Lincoln was a leading candidate for sainthood), a dictionary, a huge Catholic Bible with all the apocrypha, and A History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II, displayed proudly because it included a snapshot that my father had taken on Guadalcanal. 
   And because the last one had airplanes it it, I wanted to read it, so my grandmother taught me.
   When I was four years old. 
   Using the Bible. 
   We started with Genesis, and by Revelation I could read as well as she could. Only after that was I treated to my reward, the Marine history, which, after Leviticus and Numbers, was pretty lively stuff.
   This posed something of an issue for my teachers in elementary school. They handed me Fun with Dick and Jane, I polished it off in about five minutes and asked why the guy wrote so weird, and for the next several years, while the rest of the class practiced reading, I sat in the corner reading the encyclopedia and (once my teachers had made sure I was not spending all of my time ogling pictures of bare-breasted tribal women) a few decades worth of National Geographic.
   So my grandmother taught me to read.
   But it was my mother who taught me to love books.
   She was, and is, a reader and, long about the time I was five, introduced me to the local library, which was less than a five-minute bike ride from my house. And she made it her business to not only love books, but to love the books I loved. If I brought it home from the library, first I read it and then she read it, so I could have someone with whom to discuss it.
My mother last Christmas;
I'm betting she's asking
Santa for a new book. 
   In this fashion, my mother became an expert on every expedition to Mount Everest, on the principles of rocketry and aviation, on wilderness survival and the heroes of the Old West and, much later, on the works of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
   What's more, she also encouraged me to write. And when I began writing, she was (and remains) a perfect pre-reader, largely because she understands where I'm coming from, because she laid my childhood literary foundation with me.
   So what about you? Do you have someone in your life who started you on a love of reading books, and a passion for writing them?
   If you do, and you're still blessed enough to have them with you, be sure to tell them how much that has meant to you.
   And remember, Mother's Day is coming.
   So go out and buy them a book.

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