Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Here's My Life, Opened to You

Yesterday I had a meeting at my alma mater about graduate school. It was lovely to step back onto my campus but somewhat sad to discover that it no longer felt like home. I met with friends for about an hour then wandered over to the red brick building where I was to have me meeting.

We discussed graduate school for two hours and looked over what I needed to submit for the schools. Only one asks for a personal statement and I stared off, drawing a blank. Personal statements? How am I expected to display what a great candidate I am for this schools Literature program while also explaining why going to Scotland is so much more then just a vacation?

But last night I sat down, took out a writing pad, and after four separate starts (and cross outs) I had something: to compare my life's very existence and story to the books on my bookshelves. After I was finished with my personal statement and hid it away (I want to give myself a day to forget what I wrote then go back and reread it, probably discover I hate it, rip it up, and write something entirely new) I kept thinking about the memories I have of my life and how they correspond with books.

It goes like this (the fourth, the fifth..)
A Little Princess: It's a copy from when my mother was a child. The paper cover is ripped in spots and there is a crayon mark- done by yours truly- on the back cover. My mother had it as a child and then when I was little she read it to me. It was one of the first books I read on my own when I was little and I loved it- I still do.

The Sweep Series: silly little books on witches that I only own two copies of- book 2 and 3. The first book my best friend in High School had. We bought different books in the series then swapped them to read. We thought we were so cool having worked out a cheaper way to get access to the books.

A Tale of Two Cities: the spine is bent in a manner where it makes it clear that the book was opened to it's fullest capacity. That's true, it was. I had the book open while I was reading it in 10th grade. I was exhausted because I had been making daily trips to a hospital that was 45 minutes away to visit my aunt who was dying from lung cancer. I recall the night, it was in November- dark and cold- and I was laying on my little bed reading the book for school until I suddenly was waking up, hours later, with the book still open... but I had rolled on top of it. A Tale of Two Cities will forever remind me of my Aunt's final days.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: I bought this book on a whim in Maryland. I knew it was considered a classic but I had never actually read it. I brought the book back to my aunts house (where I was staying for two weeks) and crept up to my cousins room. She had moved out years before and now was happily married. As a child I had always loved her room with her canopied bed, pretty dolls, and collections of photos from Europe. My little cousin and I would sneak into the room and lay on the bed, just to be in there. Now, I was staying in that room for those two splendid weeks. I opened the book, sat on the cushioned window seat, and began to read while the soft calls of Canadian geese and mallards were being mixed with night time summer bugs.

Pride and Prejudice: Holds a long line of history for me. I recall reading it my senior year and not wanting to. It was my senior year of High School! I already knew what college I was going to so why force me to read this book? I hated it and I hated it more when during my sophomore year of college it was assigned to me. But after I graduated college I willingly read the book over for a third time and realized it's beauty. The book, bent and weathered, still sits on my bookshelf.

Wuthering Heights: was another book I was forced to read twice. Once in High School and again in college. But the memory for this book reaches back to High School. It was my summer reading and I had put it off for ages until it was a week before school started. And that week my family was driving from New York to Minnesota and back. We were going to my cousins wedding but taking the scenic tour along the way. Laying in the back seat of a pick up truck, my feet against the small back window, the sun on my face... I read the book. I'd stop reading it to look out over the fields of soy beans that continued as far as I could see or to look at my first Amish buggy as we passed it by. When I look at that book, despite the cold land of the moors it talks about, I can only see summer.

Twilight: as mentioned here... reminds me forever of the warm fall days and the loss of my friend Cathy. The books brought me a welcomed comfort and escape from her death. I don't believe I'll ever enjoy the books again because they remind me far too much of that time.

The point that I am trying to make is that all of my books hold a certain memory. I can't quite say to you, "I have this memory of when I was doing this and this." but if you were to pick a book off of my bookshelf I could easily tell you what was going on in my life when I read that book. My entire history could be written based on the memories I have of what occurred while this book or that book was being read. For that reason alone I strictly have seasonal books. If I want to reread a book that I had read in the summertime 8 years ago I more than likely won't be able to get into it unless it's summer.

This is how powerful books are to me. This is how important they are.

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