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I found this
collection available on project gutenberg, and I started reading it, wondering if I would find it incredibly boring/stupid/immature or what.
What actually ended up happening was more like a portal into my past.
I got this book as a Christmas gift from my grandmother on my dad's side. My sister and I were never terribly close to my dad's family - we never seemed to be wholly included in their big huge family, and I always thought it was because we lived in another state and it was too far to travel (it's really only a few hours, it would have been entirely possible to see them more than twice a year) and my mom always told us it was because THEY wouldn't travel to see US because we didn't matter enough to them. Now that I'm grown up it's pretty clear to me that any sense of disconnect I felt from them was not my imagination, and it wasn't for either of those reasons, either - it was just because they didn't really know what to do with us. Being that my dad was married to someone else and all.
My dad's mom would frequently send my sister and I totally inappropriate Christmas gifts, like clothing made for kids five years younger than we were, or books way below our age level, or really cheap versions of things we already had, but this present was the other way on the scale - I think she gave it to me right before I turned eight, in second grade, (my birthday is right after Christmas so I usually got one present right around New Year's, which I think is why I kind of mix up the significance of New Year's and my actually birthday in my head to this day - it certainly does simplify things to think of it all as one occasion tho) and believe it or not, even though I am a super genius and love reading to the point of being obsessed, I don't think I really knew how to read in second grade. In school we barely did any actual reading beyond lists of words in a little book, and in the library we were directed towards very simple picture books with like one sentence per page.
In one year's time, when I was in third grade and turning nine, I had definitely figured out what reading actually was, because by then I was reading like everything in site, all the books in the library and all my dad's sci-fi and mystery and horror bestsellers (he had box after box after box of them, and some of them were very very adult - you wouldn't think a sci-fi novel would be inappropriate for a kid, just maybe a little too difficult to read, but I learned a LOT about adult relationships from those books!) and all my mom's old Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books (which I quickly grew tired of when I realized I could solve the mystery halfway through the book) but when I got this book as a gift in second grade, there was no way I could have or would have read it, so my mom put it away and said I could have it when I was older.
My grandmother also was never able to spell my name correctly, ever, on anything, it was always either "Lora" or "Laura" which always fed my suspicion that "Lara" is not a real name and was simply a mistake or misspelling on the part of my parents. I never really held it against her or anything because I think I was always pretty aware that neither of my dad's parents really
knew how to read or write in English. Write their names and read a few signs, yeah, but really understand the quirky spellings of English, read a book, write a letter, that kind of thing... no, I am pretty sure they never could. So misspelling my name was not that big of a deal to me. Still... I would THINK she would have known that a book like that was not an appropriate gift for a second-grader...
The next year I discovered the Anne of Green Gables books. I had seen the miniseries on PBS and realized that it was a book, and decided I was going to read the book. Having seen the movie and already knowing the story I think helped to motivate me to actually read the entire book, because if certain parts were not interesting I knew it was going to get more interesting later. I impressed a lot of people reading those books, not because they are particularly difficult but because they are so LONG! It wasn't until I was in fifth grade though that I realized I had another book by that author, and it was a nice big book that I hadn't read yet. I suspected it might be a little boring (because Anne was kind of boring to me - there were so many other big long books that I just devoured and Anne was kind of tedious to read) but I figured I'd give it a try.
I remember so very clearly getting ready to read this book. I made myself a cup of vanilla-flavored instant cappuccino and took it to my bedroom with me (this was not allowed - also, I was a caffeine fiend even as a child, and this is probably why I never got very tall) and I put on my slippers and my favorite sweater and took my pillows and propped them up against the side of my bed and curled up in the corner between my bed and my nightstand and turned on the lamp on my nightstand and got my nice fuzzy blanket and set it between the bed and the nightstand so I could touch it while I read but if anyone came in my room they would not immediately see that I was obsessively petting my blanket (because my family always thought that was weird and would always try to get me to stop, and yes I am aware that it IS weird but its not exactly a harmful habit now is it?) and I opened the book and started reading.
It was such a long book, and had such a rambling pace - no suspense whatsoever, so I could start and stop whenever I wanted to, but it was interesting enough that I always wanted to set some time aside to pick it up again. Other books I would read all in one sitting, having to hide in different parts of the house so I could keep reading all the way through to the end, but this book I could just pick up and put down whenever, so I remember going through this ritual several times, getting things all set up to have the most perfect indulgent reading experience. I remember everything - I remember how the lamp on my nightstand had a yellow shade and how my bedroom carpet was a burnt orange color and my nightstand was also stained and orange sort of wood color, so everything around me was vaguely golden-ish colored. I remember how the metal of my bed frame would cut into my back, even through my pillow, but I'd be so absorbed by my book that I never wanted to move. I remember how my instant cappuccino drink would be all powdery at the bottom, and I remember how sometimes instead of playing with my blanket I'd play with this stretchy adhesive stuff that was sort of like a cross between silly putty and an eraser.
I just remember being totally content, and thinking, this is exactly what I want. Everything is exactly the way I want it. Nothing could be any more perfect than what I have right this minute.
I read a little bit of the book on project gutenberg and it isn't boring, it was very absorbing, but it really made me remember curling up and indulging myself when I was a kid. Right down to the very detail.