Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Joys of My Childhood, Lost and Found

Ever since childhood, I have loved to read.

Looking back, I can see that reading was my way of escaping the unhappy reality of a dysfunctional family.  I did pay a price for it, though.  My mother used to give me hell for reading.  "You've always got your nose stuck in a book" she'd say.  "You're going to grow up to be an egghead, utterly worthless, just like that no good father of yours."  However, my joy was well worth the price I paid for it.

I suppose that I did grow up to be an egghead, although not entirely worthless, and I married an egghead who loved to read just as much as I did.  During the 18 years of our  marriage, we accumulated many books -- about 3,000, as I estimated during our divorce.  When I left my ex, I just didn't know what to do about all these books.  I didn't know how to figure out which were his and which were mine.  Besides, I felt giving for leaving him.  I took just a very few of the books for myself.  My office mate and unofficial counselor told me, "You should have taken them all."  He was absolutely right.  I should have taken them all.  

One of the hardest experiences of my divorce was finding out that my ex had moved 1,000 miles away and taken our books with him.  I learned that one day at work, and I went out of my office, got into my car, and screamed and cried for an hour.

My ex mailed me just one book out of those 3,000, and that was very painful, too.  The book was a gift from one of my students, who had inscribed it "To my teacher and friend,  Love, Michael."  At first I didn't know why my ex had sent me that one, very special book.  Later, I decided that he did it because he was jealous of all my male friends.  That book means a lot to me, and I still have it.  

After our divorce, when I got myself back together financially, I began to look for and buy some of my favorite books which I had lost.  One of the first things I did when I got my divorce money was to go to a bookstore and come out with my arms full of poetry and Shakespeare and a great big smile on my face.  I wasn't always successful in finding the books I loved, though.  Some were out of print, and others, which I had bought during our travels abroad, were not available in English in this country.

Recently I've started getting books for free or for very low prices through Kindle and other sources online.  The other day I found "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass" with the original illustrations on Internet Archive.  That was one of my lost favorites.  I especially loved the pictures.  I am now reading it and enjoying it immensely.

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