It’s quite a wonderful thing to have a childhood memory related to a book. I, luckily, have many. As a lover of books, I would revel in the dream of having my own gigantic, Beauty and the Beast-like library one day. The closest I came to this as a child was my grandparents’ den. It had an entire wall with a built-in bookcase. The bookcase was filled to the brim with books. The children’s books were all neatly aligned on the lowest shelf while the more adult books were organized by category in upper shelves. I remember as a child dreaming of the days when I could go through each book on those shelves.
I would grab a book and become euphoric just from the smell of it. Curled up in the big armchair, I would take myself to a far off place, immersing myself in the book’s world. But, when I was younger, it was all about curling up with whomever I could get to read to me. It was like all the world faded away as me and my reader sunk into that book.
My most distinct memory was our Christmas Eve tradition. My brother and I would curl up on my grandpa’s lap and listen to The Night Before Christmas. I would marvel in the fact that my grandpa had read this book to us so many times (along with his Mensa-level memory), he no longer needed to look at the page to know the story. It was astonishing to me as a little girl.
Each year for holidays and birthdays, my grandparents would buy me books. Each book, even every single one of the Beatrix Potter and Little House on the Prairie series, had a personal inscription from my grandparents. It was personal, it was mine, and it was intimate. Each book didn’t just belong to me but had its own personal story before the story even started.
When I was pregnant with my daughter and planning her nursery, I knew I wanted a bookcase for her room. But, instead of buying her a new one, my mom brought over my old bookcase. It was a small bookcase but held so many memories. It was still decorated to match my old room. We worked on it together and refinished it to match my daughter’s nursery.
Along with the bookcase came a box of all my childhood books. As I stocked the bookcase with old and new children’s books, I couldn’t help but get emotional. This bookshelf contained my childhood along with my daughter’s future childhood. It contained old memories and the hope of new ones.
Now that my daughter is four and my son is two, I can never turn down a request to read a book. I now revel in the intimacy it allows me with my children. Each in my lap, leaning on my shoulder, hanging onto every word. It is a few moments of calm in the wildness that are these young years.
Many times, they will grab new books, the same books, or my old books. There are books that I have read so many times, I recite them from memory. I now watch as my daughter or son smiles, fascinated that I somehow already know this story.
But, when my daughter or son grabs an old book, one of my childhood, I can’t help but pause a moment at the inscription. So many memories in just one page.
“Dream big, Meghan.”
“May reading help you discover new worlds.”
“We love you always, Grandma & Grandpa.”
As my children get older, those inscriptions won’t just be more words on a page in a children’s book, but memories they can live through. It will be a small window into their mom’s life as a child.