Thursday, April 4, 2013

When Books Became Important To Me

I was at home the other day, doing house work and, as usual, doing some of my best thinking.  As I was dusting my bookcase I thought of ....well, books!  Specifically the age where they really started to excite me.  I admit I was pretty lucky early on, my mom read to my brothers and I when we were kids and I managed to have teachers who had a real passion for good books.  I'd say my first inkling of how special books really are was when I was in the fourth grade, Mr. Bowes class.  From the second I walked into that class it felt like I was in another world.  It was dark and at a solid 60 degrees all year around, but the walls and counters were covered in literary references. I wonder if Mr. Bowes ever thought that perhaps it wasn't a great idea to fill his classroom up with eye popping distractions and old looking breakable gadgets.  A little kid gets ideas after all!

Mr. Bowes was awesome, he looked like an old well groomed hippie/pirate with longish hair tied neatly at the base of his neck.  His mainstays were jeans and multiple layers of upper clothing.  And if that weren't enough he ALWAYS had a bandanna (varying colors, of course) tied around his neck like a limp piece of jewelry.  Honestly, I was hooked from day one.  He was excited and passionate
about the books we read, he engaged everyone and at the time I felt as ifJames and the Giant Peach and Summer of the Monkey's were the most important books I would ever read.

After Mr. Bowes class I finally knew where my academic comfort zone really was.  After elementary there were a few teachers who would recognize my love of books and encourage my writing.  One teacher even gave me extra reading materials with discussion questionnaire's.  English literature classes were some of the only classes I felt pretty darn superior and I wasn't above showing off.

Up until the age of thirteen, Romance novels weren't even on my radar.  One day, when my mom and I weren't fighting about whatever teenage angst happen to be on the menu that week, she took me out to run errands with her.  We had a dog then and needed to stop at the pet store located off a short strip mall.  I love pets but can't stand the smell of pet stores so I didn't go in.  Instead I went to a small book store called, The Book Exchange.  Now when I say it's small, I mean small. It had three rows of books and a few rotating displays in the front.  Other than the shelved walls lining the right and left walls of the building, the entire bookstore was filled with Romance novels.  It was so quaint even the shelves had hand written labels detailing (by last name) which author was in that particular section. The best part was that it was operated by these two older ladies perched on cushioned bar stools immediately to the right of the entrance.  They were fantastic women, grandmother types with bi-focal's on the tips of their noses, cotton and gold colored hair pined high and frozen solid with hairspray.  They took one look at my lost face and promptly directed me to the teen romance section.  I don't remember the author or the name of the book, I just remember that it was about a sorta chubby teen who with the help of a kind boy, loses the weight and her heart during a family summer vacation.  SOLD!

After a few more of those teen romps I decided to graduate to more adult romances.  I carefully made my way down the other two rows, Garland...Lamb...Johnson...Putney...McPhearson...Lowell...James...and then I found her.  Amanda Quick.  Rendezvous.  That was it.  That was the moment when this wonderful genre became important to me and I haven't looked back.  When I think on who I have to thank for
introducing me to a world of escape, adventure and of course love, that list is surprisingly long.  That little bookstore made it possible for my mother and I to tolerate each other for a few hours a week when I wasn't being a total nightmare.  It also gave us something to bond over and quality mother/daughter time.  To this day one of our favorite things to do together is going to a bookstore.  And to think, it all started with Mr. Bowes!

So I pose the question to anyone who reads this: When did books become important to you?

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