The Mountain Times

°F Fri, April 18, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

I’m all booked up

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 Nickerson.

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.