I spent a long holiday weekend at the beach recently, soaking up
the rays on the beautiful coast of South Carolina. The first thing
I pack when heading to the beach is a good book. I had somehow
missed Pat Conroy's best seller, Beach Music, so I headed to the
library, checked it out and stowed it in my luggage. At 628 pages,
I knew it would last and I discovered before I got through chapter
one that it was a great choice.
As my friend and I sat poolside during the day, I had to chuckle
at the scenario. I had my library book in hand, complete with
cellophane cover and crackling spine. She was also reading a book -
on her iPhone. She used to have a Kindle but it basically became
obsolete when she purchased an iPad.
I remain an old-fashioned bookworm.
A visit to the library for me is an experience and I always
allot myself at least an hour to browse. I peruse the fiction
aisles, pulling books from the stacks because I like the look of
the cover. I read the jacket summary to determine if it's my style.
When I find an author I like, I devour everything written by him or
her. Anita Shreve hooked me with The Pilot's Wife and I spent the
next two months traveling through the rest of her repertoire. As
soon as I finished Conroy's Beach Music, I started immediately on
South of Broad.
As I took a break from my book to rest my eyes, I thought about
reading as a child. I didn't attend kindergarten because St. Anne's
School didn't offer one. My sister, who is five years older than
me, borrowed a first-grade reader and decided to teach me to read
at home. By the time I reported for the first day of first grade in
Sister St. Andrew's classroom, I already knew the entire story of
David, Anne and their dog Spot. After I had mastered the reader, we
delved into the Baltimore Catechism.
The required reading in grammar school was pretty dry and
boring, so it wasn't long before I ventured into the word of Nancy
Drew. Nancy was smart, beautiful and lived quite the exciting life
solving mysteries. I spent a year living vicariously through Nancy
Drew, her good friends George and Bess, and the handsome Ned
Nancy Drew books were not something to be found in the library -
they were purchased. With my single mother working two jobs to keep
a roof over our heads, these books were not going to find a way to
our house. But lucky for me, I lived around the corner from the
Reilly family. They had six children, the older ones attending St.
Anne's with me. Jane was the oldest and she loved to read. Though I
am sure the Reilly's budget also didn't call for these books, I
think they saw them as an investment because all four girls could
read them. Anne was my age, and Megan and Marguerite came along
later in life several years after the two boys, Thomas and John.
Mrs. Reilly was a stay-at-home mom, as were most of the moms in our
neighborhood, and she always looked tired. Having raised two
children of my own, I now know why!
I was allowed to borrow a book, one at a time, from their Nancy
Drew collection. Inside the cover of each book, Jane's name was
written in perfect penmanship so every borrower would know the
owner of the book. I read about the secret of the old clock and the
hidden staircase, as well as the mysterious goings-on at the
bungalow and the Lilac Inn. I read about the clues in the diary,
the broken locket and the crumbling wall. I traveled with Nancy and
her cohorts to different states with the wind blowing my hair in
Nancy's convertible. Once I started reading an adventure, I
couldn't put it down.
When we were a little older, Jane turned us on to books like
Jane Eyre and Little Women. By the time I hit high school, there
wasn't much time for pleasure reading. College prep courses meant
plenty of required reading, and any leftover time was spent on
boys. When marriage and kids came along, there was even less time.
At the end of the day after working, cooking, cleaning, bathing,
laundry, paying bills, etc., the only reading I was doing was Dr.
Seuss to my daughters. I was much too exhausted to do any reading
for myself after that.
I am making up for lost time now and visit the library often.
Each time I finish a book, I am motivated to write my own - one of
my bucket list items. But somehow life keeps getting in the way of
that accomplishment. My older daughter inherited my love of
reading. Her favorite book is To Kill a Mocking Bird as evidenced
by my grandson's middle name - Atticus. She also convinced her
sister-in-law to name her daughter Harper. With another grandchild
on the way, a girl, we all wonder if we will have a Scout in the
family. No matter what her name, when the time is right Grandma is
going to introduce her to Nancy Drew. Together we can figure out
the secret to that old clock.