I was a weird kid. And truthfully, though I have learned how to behave (sort of), I still kind of feel like a weird adult. (I prefer eccentric, but for the dramatic effect, we will go with weird.) Does reading make you weird or do you read because you're already weird? I don’t know. But I do know that as a reader, I always felt on the outside of the material world, but normal within my real world of books.
In the early 70s, at David Wicks preschool in the All Saints Episcopal Church in Corpus Christi Texas, only two of us could read. And we were bored. The coloring pages bored us. The phonetic sounding out of letters bored us. (Playground time really bored me!) So, they gave us books and put us out in the hallway to read. On our own. It was glorious. For two reasons. One, we were reading! That was all we had to do. Sit and read. Two, the other reader was Chris B-. My first love. He was blonde. He was blue-eyed. He was a reader! I waited each day to be sent out to the hallway with the boy I loved who rarely spoke to me. But I understood his silent devotion. We were connected by our ability to be alone together with our books. (A trait which I treasure in my husband.)
My heart broke when my love moved to Iowa (I think) and I moved on to elementary school. Windsor Park. (What a glorious name that did not match the architecture of that school one bit.) Windsor Park was a gifted and talented magnet school, which meant I got to go to school with other weirdos just like me! Even as a six-year-old, I was pretty chuffed about this. Maybe we would all sit in the hall and read together. All. Day. Long.
But sigh, as it turns out I was a weird kid even amongst weird kids. I didn’t fit in. According to a note signed by all my second-grade friends, I was too weird to be friends with them. The note said that they knew I had read all the Nancy Drew books and that was just too weird. I cried a little. I’m pretty sure my mom called their moms (because, you know, that always helps). And then, after the seed of social anxiety was planted and beginning to bloom, I read some more.
I found comfort in reading Ramona the Pest. I read Anne of Green Gables. That helped, too. I imagined myself plucky and misunderstood on some remote island of some paradise called Canada! I read Trixie Belden, and related to her insecurities when compared with Honey and Diana. I reread Nancy Drew because, well if I’d known the F word, then F them. I read Are You There God, it’s me, Margaret. Then I read Forever (oh my!) and loaned it to a friend. Her mother found it and was not happy. My mother got the call that time.
Then my really cool cousin was reading Flowers In The Attic. I read it, too. And though I really did not understand what was happening, I knew I needed to hide it under my bed because it was B.A.D. Bad enough that I had to go on and read all the others in the series. (I like books in a series. I still do. God bless you, Louise Penny.)
High school English class and Mrs. O’Connor introduced me to Wuthering Heights. I remember reading it in our yellow bathtub and my mother knocking on the door yelling at me that I had to come out sometime or I would be a total prune. But Heathcliff! (In my adult years, I have reread that book and have determined it to be one of the most messed-up love stories in literature. #teamausten all the way.)
And then finally, I was introduced to contemporary literature with a capital L. We read the beginning of The Child In Time by Ian McEwan in my high school Humanities class and I was forever changed. (Thank you, Joe Wilson for that. And also for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. And for making us watch Amadeus. And for being brave enough to introduce culture to kids from South Texas.)
So yeah, I’m okay being weird. Now I know the F word and I still have my books.