Sunday, December 21, 2008

When We Were Young

Darling Brigid notes the small things of life as a child and how they were so much more lasting than the things of memories returned on the tide that her words brought forth. Earliest toys and the games so long gone...This was the first thing that came to mind - perhaps because that balloon smell was so memorable. There was no escaping it.

So much of my early life was dominated by media. - and books...oh, the books... We went to the library quite often, sometimes left there much of the day while mom worked. Back then, even the preschools (Head Start) took you, each holding your own little knot on a long rope that led us down Chicago streets to that lovely, serene paradise that smelled of old pages and warm film strips. How I loved it...

I do not recall my youth as some do - only snippets here and there with wide swaths missing. One memory will link to another that I didn't even know I still knew. But I recall that books were a large part of our "toy" collection. I loved The Happy Hollisters. Even earlier were the Dick & Jane books. Though it was the `60s, we still had the very early books. I coveted the old fashioned lives and pictures. I wanted that sort of peaceful life.

Later it was the Laura Ingalls series of books. Little House On The Prairie - how I hated that the TV show had a Laura that looked far too much like I did then - the mockery I had to withstand. Especially when mom had a spare moment in the morning and plaited my hair. Dare I even mention the time she went overboard and pinned them atop my head ala Heidi? Scarred, I am.

Time moved as did we and it was a small Florida town's school where I found the Newberry and Caldecott Award books. I asked the librarian at my school to find others. One was "The Witch of Blackbird Pond". That dark and yet full of historical snippets that I could feel...Which led to Sylvia Louise Engdahl and her book "Enchantress From the Stars". Och, how I loved that book...

I was already slipping comfortably into Tolkien (though, admittedly, deeper meanings were lost on me) and Asimov - the fiction and the non-fiction (I understood red shift far earlier than imaginable). Arthur C. Clarke was a true favorite and those led, of course, to Heinlein.

Ah, yes...all of 12 years old and reading "Stranger In A Strange Land" and "grokking" it. Damned straight I was and it utterly changed me just as, perhaps, Ayn Rand changed people. You are no longer able to look at anything the same way. While it felt as though a door had closed, I didn't mind overmuch.

All of the books are ones I'd read gladly today and some which are turned to annually, a visit which sometimes turns up an unexpected margin note or underline. Sometimes a dried blossom, significance forgotten.

And then there are the authors whose letters are still cherished...Parke Godwin thanking me for my interest in his very fine treatment of Arthurian legend, and the Pièce de résistance - a letter from Marion Zimmer Bradley regarding her book "The Mists of Avalon". I'd inquired as to her thoughts about it being made into a movie someday (long before the miniseries and any of the sequel books). She issued her opinion on a fine green paper, typewritten, very long ago.

So many more as I searched for meanings, for a knowledge that would make sense of what I thought I knew. In the end, though, it is only truth that guides us. Facts are facts no matter what we'd have them be. Stories can form us, shape us in small ways. They can lead us on a journey but we're the ones traveling, moving, through and around them. The books always wait, patient, for their time to return.

Meanwhile, I move in a new media, swimming in deep waters to find truths and finding so much flotsam...facts become maleable, truth can be edited according to what is revealed and by whom and under which prejudiced rendering. I ache for a past that cannot be - when an oath meant something. When a lie, no matter how convincingly told, was noted and the liar no longer trusted.

When we were young...will it ever be the same again or will it take a calamity to reset the system? If all information is lost, could we start again with truth? Could facts once again reign? "It is a dream I have..."

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