In ‘The Sound of Music‘, the shero, Julie Andrews’ character Maria, sings about …”raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string” – as a few of her favorite things. Well, Julie was much better at much more than I am… especially when naming a few of her favorite things. Still, I do have my own list of favorites.
Candles and flowers and onesies of all kind, Chanel #5 and a tight firm behind, manicures and pedicures and weaves sown in tight – these are a few things that make me feel so right!
For as long as I can remember being ‘me’, I have most LOVED books! When a child, my favorite task was dusting books on Saturday morning in my Aunt Sarah’s living room. She had Compton and Brittanica and World Book – full sets! They felt great, smelled wonderful, looked beautiful and were a treasure to anyone who could read. Many of those Saturdays, I forfeited the extra 50 cents per room in my aunt’s big house to delaying my day by sitting on her age-old polished floor in front of her book cases. More time was given to wiping my hands out of respect for the best paper I had ever touched, than to wiping those shelves and tables and chair legs!
Even in today’s world of brilliant technology that allows me to carry hundreds of books immediately available via Kindle, and even more accessible by the tap of my keyboard, I miss the wonder of strolling through my childhood. Each Thursday was my visit to our town library in the ‘white section’ of our hometown. We had no public library on my side of Panola Street (Panola divided the black homes from the white homes in Tarboro back then). Still, the thrill, calm, joy and peace those shelves and shelves of books offered me, organized by a carefully attended card catalogue, were worth the long walk from my side of town (the colored section, later Negro, and finally Black before I graduated high school) into what seemed like heaven to me – the side of town with the Library!
Of all the public places where blacks and whites frequented, the town library was the one place where a now-lost etiquette supported kindness. Kindness in tone, in behavior and information sharing existed in our library. As long as you kept your hands clean, your voice low and your books returned timely, you were welcome! Black and white, alike.
We were a two-color town in my youth: Black folks and White folks. But it was books that gave color to my existence in my small hometown! Books not only shared the dreams of authors from the world over; they encouraged my own. Many nights, our Daddy would walk through our bedrooms after lights-out to find me reading under the bedcovers by flashlight. Often, he would threaten punishment if I didn’t turn the light out; but just as often, he simply patted the cover over my head and whispered for me not to read too late.
The day our Mommie and Daddy bought our first books of Brittanica was a highlight in my life! They couldn’t afford to buy the full set all at once, so they bought them as they could afford them – as many families did back then. And, just like many families, our Encyclopedia set held prime position on the bookshelf in our living room. I recall each time I had the honor of putting the next newly paid for one in its place on our shelves.
Mommie and Daddy taught us that Education is Freedom, but it was somehow innate to me that books were the pathway to my soul, my future and all that ever was-is-and can be good in life. Before our Encyclopedia came into our home, my older brother John, paid me to write his homework assignments. Once we got the set, John knew from the gleam in my eyes at the privilege of using them he could have gotten me to research in those books and complete his papers for free. Often, he did!
Books, too heavy to carry more than three or four at a time, transported me to places far away and far back in time. Books shared the poets’ best and Tom Sawyer’s worst. Books told me from where countries were born and how limitless I could grow. Books were amazing!
Julie Andrews sings “Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels, doorbells and sleigh-bells and schnitzel with noodles, wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings” as a few more of her favorite things.
My song might well continue – Makers and partakers of ideals and innovations, people of all creeds and well earned vacations, family enjoying each meal that I cook, nothing surpasses the thrill of each brand new book!
And so, today, whenever I truly love a book I’ve read on my Kindle, in homage to authors and days of my childhood, I forfeit the tree and buy the book.