I started falling in love with books in the 5th grade. I quickly realized as a poor, small town girl that a book could in moments take me places I had never dreamed of and turn me into someone I would have never thought to become on my own. A great author could transform me into the fastest, smartest, prettiest or bravest girl in town.
I will never forget the moment I read a book and became so emotionally overwhelmed that I forgot I was reading a fictional story. It was called, The Bridge to Terabithia. The main characters, Jessie and Leslie developed an unlikely friendship and created a fantasy world using their imagination in a wooded area near their home. I lost myself in the adventure of Terabithia and sobbed uncontrollably when Leslie died unexpectedly. I lived out the loss of a friend through the eyes of Jessie. It was gut wrenching and terrible. I shut the book, the story faded and the normal setting of my 10 year old self came back into focus. Just like that, I was hooked on the written word.
In middle school by best friend got asked out by a boy. I decided that I wanted a boyfriend as well. Unfortunately at that point I was a head taller than every guy in my grade and about 6 shades darker which didn’t help in the selection process. Luckily it was about this time that I met Michael. A valiant, polite and devastatingly handsome character from the book Sixteen. It was written in the 1950’s and old fashioned even then which made it even more endearing. Boys just didn’t exist like Michael where I was from. The story of Sixteen started my voracious engorgement of romance novels.
As a young adult I discovered Dean R Koontz. The man and author took me on so many sick and twisted curves and turns, twenty years later I have still not recovered. From crime scenes to running down terror field dark alleys he created fear in me no scary movie could contrive. Why you may wonder did I keep picking up his books?! They were heart racing, nightmare inducing psychotic thrillers that I could not walk away from. I am not sure what that says about that particular season of my life.
I can count on one hand the books that have had deep impact on me in all of my 46 years. One being, A Child called It. It is the documented true account of one of the worst cases of child abuse in the state of California’s history. I finished reading the 208 page biography in one day. I remember feeling like I could not put it down until I knew young David would eventually get the help his small shattered body and mind needed. I could not leave him. I could tell as I was reading that I was being emotionally drawn into his journey but I did not realize how invested I had become. Until the end. It was well after midnight when I read the last page. As I prepared for bed my mind was on overdrive thinking about David. Wondering how he was doing now. Did he turn out okay? Thinking about the people who could have stepped in and changed his circumstances but chose to be in silent in the face of his pain. I couldn’t take it. I started weeping big ugly tears of heartache. My body was shaking so much with the attempt to wash out the sadness that it woke up my husband. He was instantly alert and concerned. “What happened? Are you okay?”
Between hickups I tried to explain about the book, David’s life and my inability to let him go. He tiredly rolled over and sighed, “You are banned from reading those books at night.”
Little did I know that five years later while working as a community health nurse, David’s story would continue to haunt me. I was walking through an apartment complex on my way to visit a home health care patient. As I passed outside one door I heard a child crying and the unmistakable sound of a hand slapping across a face. My heart stopped. I was frozen in place listening to the exchange of the child’s cries and the adults yells. “Please stop,” the young voice stammered.
I heard more impacts from the anger filled hands. Maybe, before David, I would have walked by. This child was my personal David and I refused to be one of the people who pretended not to hear. I picked up my phone and called 911. I am not sure what happed next after walking into my patient’s apartment but I know I did my part in sounding an alarm.
I will always love and be grateful for the books that have brought belly laughs, torrents of tears, waters of peace and islands that cause me to forget the present, taking me away to where my soul needs to be in the midst of the flipped pages.