I am afraid I may have forgotten what it’s like to be a reader. I’ve forgotten, beginning with my transition to the freedom of college, what it’s like to stay up until the wee hours, submerged completely in a book. I’ve forgotten about “the point of no return,” which I not-so-cleverly used to call that precipice you find yourself crouching on late at night, knowing you can either turn back to the comfort of pillow and sleep, or plunge into the abyss, not to emerge until you’ve read the very last page.
Books were everything when I was younger. There was little TV, few movies, and absolutely nothing more important than going to bed as early as possible, that I might read a few hundred pages before falling asleep. I remember vividly the night when I, in my haste to hide my reading light from suspicious parents, pushed my lamp down on top of the stack of books on my nightstand. A few seconds later, confident that Mom had retreated back down the hallway, I pulled the lamp back up, only to discover that the heat of the bulb had partially melted the protective plastic on the book’s cover. The elementary school librarians never quite recovered from that incident.
Then there was 5th grade, when I actually got a check next to my name on Mrs. P’s behavioral chart for immersing myself too deeply in a book. She was calling us up to her desk, one by one, to hand in an assignment. I was reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It was my favorite part, when Mr. Beaver says, in a curiously intriguing voice, “They say Aslan is on the move-perhaps has already landed.” All of the sudden, my friend Jessica, sitting behind me, whacked me on the back, and I watched in confused horror as Mr. Beaver wavered and then retreated to a thin mirage in the corner of my consciousness. Mrs. P, despite Jessica’s rather violent warning, had reached my name on her list, looked up to see that I was too far gone to hear and respond, and simply skipped over me with quiet disapproval. Now that I was aware, all I could do was watch helplessly as the H’s, and then the M’s and the N’s walked up to her desk, shooting me sympathetic glances as they went. I stayed after the bell to talk to Mrs. P, clutching C.S. to my chest for courage. She informed me that she had already marked the chart, and that I was up to two checks for the week. One more and I would be staying in for recess. And no, Mr. Lewis would not be joining me.
A little of the old Holly came back last night; I stayed up until one, poring over the last hundred pages of Gone With the Wind. I felt like myself last night, burritoed into my covers, listening to the comforting sounds of the Beagle Next Door shuffling around in our bushes, and pressing my nose into the rough pages of the book whenever my eyes started to close. I felt like the girl who stuck mozzarella cheese into Drew Steinert’s yogurt cup, and then dared him to chug it. I felt like the girl who would inaugurate the deathly sledding hill in our backyard, even though it petrified me to do it. I felt like the girl who used to spend hours locked in my room, acting out Little House on the Prairie with my American Girl Dolls. I felt, for the first time in years, that if I could relive that scene in 5th grade, even now with my sophisticated twenty-one years of age, I would behave in exactly the same way. After all, witnessing Aslan’s approach will always be more important than a great many things, recess included.