July 12, 2007

Love of books leads journalist to adventure, finding herself

Editor's note: This is a a commentary I wrote recently Some people will tell you that I am a fanatic about books, but don't beleive everything you hear ... o.k. this one might be true.

-- Published in Fort Polk Guardian (March 30, 2007) --
By: MICHELLE LINDSEY, Guardian staff writer

I have been a princess in a foreign land, a detective on the hunt for a killer. I have traveled the open seas in a ship rocked by towering waves and run the jungle paths with refugees fleeing oppression. I have been a Navy nurse and an Army general –– all while curled up with my favorite pink blanket.
I have lived the adventures of a thousand lifetimes through books. Growing up in a large family, we had two entertainment areas –– in the tree house or our rooms. There was no television, radio, game systems or motorized bikes. I was the fourth of 12, living on a chicken farm in rural Louisiana.
The cost of sending so many children to private school was a burden my father and stepmother carried for many years before deciding to home school us. With so many siblings, our home looked like a one-room school house, but it gave us the opportunity to sharpen our individual skills rather than follow a mandated curriculum in a public school system.
I remember, even before my parents decided to home school, they made it a point to ensure we went to the local library regularly. It was one of the few activities we could do on a limited budget. Instead of feeling cheated, I fell in love.
The smell of worn leather, the crack of a new book’s spine opening for the first time and the delicate pages of an old edition –– dreams were made of these. Opening a book for the first time was as exciting as starting a new adventure. I never knew where I’d end up, but I couldn’t wait to get there.
Once we began home schooling, we went to the library more frequently. We had more time, interrupted fewer people and it was easier for my stepmother to keep track of where we were. Once I picked a few books, I would grab my favorite pink blanket and curl up in one of the overstuffed chairs or on the carpet beside the window with a view of the old oak tree that seemed to be bigger than the small-town library. I would begin reading, falling like Alice in Wonderland, into the world within the worn pages.
I would often get irritated with the sibling tasked to tell me we were leaving. More often than not, the bruises scattered randomly across my legs and arms were from reading while walking, not playing on the farm.
My favorite books were from the Cherry Ames series, a mystery-solving nurse. I also enjoyed stories from the Victorian Era, classics such as Tom Sawyer, and mysteries. I read “War and Peace” in the eighth grade, though I admit, it was a bit complex.
As I grew older, I fell more in love with books. While other girls dreamed of being actresses, dancers and princesses, I wanted to be a writer. I admired those who could make words come to life. If I couldn’t be a writer, I wanted to be an editor, if for no other reason than to be the first to read a story.
My maternal grandmother was an elementary educator, and family vacations were always educational adventures, from spelunking in caverns to exploring Indian reservations. She encouraged us not only to read, but also write our own stories. She instilled in me a love for adventure, which I relive in the pages of my journals.
In college, while studying chemistry, I took a creative writing class to fill my scholarship requirements and rekindled my joy of reading and writing. I was good at science and math, but it didn’t hold my attention the way books did. After completing my degree that semester, I re-enrolled for a degree in journalism. I had finally found my place.
Today, that love is still as strong as ever. I sometimes visit the library on my lunch break or weekends. My favorite stop at the mall is the book store, the smell of new books and fresh ink is soothing. During my husband’s last deployment I started on my master’s in military history, which opened my eyes to a new genre of books.
The library is where I get my inspirations, whether for work or my personal life. The rows of books beckon me to join them in the adventures captured between their leather binding. Life may be busy, but I always manage to find time to read, still curled up with that old tattered pink blanket. Each book, like an old friend, waits patiently on the shelf.
The greatest gift my parents could have given me was a love of reading. It has opened my eyes to a world that I might not have otherwise considered. Now I just take life one chapter at a time. I am a book whose pages are still wet with ink, waiting to be finished.

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1 Tea Party Guest:

stitcherw said...

I loved your entry, books and reading are so special and you really captured that.