The Power of Books

The Power of Books

Growing up, I never realized after my parents divorced that we weren’t well off. I wouldn’t say we were poor, although looking back — I’m amazed that my mom was able to support my sister and me. It never dawned on me that money was tight.

I knew there were houses larger than ours. I had friends who lived in some of those houses, and while they were neat, few had as many books as we had in our house. We had shelves in the downstairs living room
. My sister’s room was littered with books. My mom’s room wasn’t messy like my sister’s room, but it was full of books. I had bookcases filled with books in my room. Books in the upstairs living room…even old books out on the enclosed front porch. When my mom eventually remarried, my step father came with more books.

Our house was full of information and stories. Sure, my sister and I loved television, music, and everything else kids liked, but I could dig through books about how the world worked or read stories both made up and true. I had plenty of old toys, but it was books that made me feel like no matter how tight things were, we had everything we needed. Some of the cases towered over me; they were commanding walls full of more than I could initially imagine. And because of those walls of books, I eventually imagined so much more.

My imagination saved me growing up. No matter how picked on I was, I had three places where I could run and hide: outside, in my mind, or in a book. My copy of Andrew Henry’s Meadow still has dirt from the backyard of the house where I grew up. The second time I read The Hobbit, it was in the top of the big pine tree out back. Any fear of storms was shoved aside as my mom read me Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories.

I can look back on those times and now realize we had one of the lower household incomes on the block. My mom worried about money, but I never sensed that concern. To me, we were richer than every house on the block I’d been in, with the exception of our neighbors — who very well may have had more books than us. But for a family that consisted of my mother, my sister, and me, we gave the Fishers a run for the money when it came to packed bookcases and books spilling out onto bedroom floors. In my bedroom at night, I was like Smaug, the dragon from The Hobbit, but instead of sitting atop a pile of gold, I commanded a far greater treasure: piles and piles of books…thousands and thousands of pages covered with words, each one a gold coin that ensured I would never want for anything more.


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