Confessions of a Compulsive Reader
I used to smoke. I used to smoke a LOT!! But when my first grandchild was on the way I decided to quit. But what to do with all that free time..
Fortunately I have always been a reader.
I am probably the only person extant, female or male, who has actually read the complete works of Horatio Algier.
The young hero of Horatio Algier’s novels, (always a hero in those days..never a heroine) through his own effort and determination, with only the barest of surprising and unexpected good fortune near the end of any one of these highly motivational books, was not only able to sustain a home (I think he picked coal or something) for his wimpy mother and an assortment of sickly brothers and sisters, but invariably wound up getting an “education” and building a small business empire. Through it all he also maintained an impeccable character and would have put Abraham Lincoln to shame for honesty!
With all this Horatio Algier stuff under my belt I could see no reason why the world should expect any less from me, now that I was no longer a degenerate smoker. Fortunately I had read a lot of other stuff too.
I remember the very day I learned to read. Perhaps they teach reading differently now but the old way seemed to work for me.
Ms. Marie’s group of first graders sat in front of the big felt phonics board in the front of the room. Little cards marched across the rows of felt pockets. Ms. Marie would point to a card with a long stick that she also used to whack the Duncan boys every now and then. Then she would make a noise..then all the little people would make a noise that was intended to be like the noise Ms. Marie made.
The day the world opened I had been allowed to sit at the back of the room by myself and look at any of the books on the two shelves. I didn’t have a clue as to why I was sent back to the bookcase by myself but I went because she told me to. I had a little book open on my lap.
In one wonderful instant of understanding I saw the relationship of the letters in the book and the sounds Ms. Marie was making. I could read. Since that time I considered the ability to read as vital as a sixth sense and would have grieved its loss as deeply. I read everything. Within two weeks I had read all the little books.
Far too soon school was out for the summer. So I read all the words in the newspaper I could decipher.
I also read one of my sisters’ True Story and True Romance magazines and my other sister’s Wee Wisdom Magazine and my brother’s comic books. I read as much as I could of Mom’s McCall’s and American magazines and sneaked the copy of Life that showed all the pictures of a baby growing in the womb that was kept hidden in the bottom drawer of the phonograph cabinet. I read the funny papers every Sunday. I read billboards and advertisements in windows. I read the writing on the bleach bottle.
I couldn’t wait for school to start because I knew Ms. Spots’ second grade room had another two shelves with books I had never seen. By the middle of September I had read almost all the little second grade books.. And then a terrible thing happened. Ms. Spots called in Ms. Marie and they huddled over the little green card box in which Ms. Spots kept her book check-out records and they found out that I had read almost a hundred books! No more books for me. I don’t know what they thought..I guess they thought my brain would sizzle or something.
This was a lucky break, however, as it left me nothing to read but all the school and library books brought home by my older brothers and sisters. Their stuff was lots better than Ms. Spots’.
One of the remarkable and pleasurable benefits of attaining my dotage is that I now can reread ALL of that good old stuff I read sooo many years ago without being troubled by remembering that I read it before!
Is that good or what??