(Well, Some of Us Do)
Officially, I learned to read when I was five, by looking on as a babysitter read me a “Dick, Jane and Sally” book or some such intellectual tome. (Actually, it started long before that when I figured out the words “OFF” and “ON” by looking at light switches. I would nearly drive Mom crazy turning a light off and on so I could read both sides of the switch.) Mom had spent time reading to me, too — possibly to keep me away from the light switches. I knew there was a connection between the words I heard and the ones printed on the page, and that day with the babysitter, it just came together.
When it was time for Kindergarten, Mom told my teacher that I could read. Skeptical, Mrs. Frederick tested me by handing me an unfamiliar book and asking me to read it to a few children seated conveniently nearby. I did. So Mrs. Frederick recommended that, instead of the Kindergarten-level “Weekly Reader,” Mom might want to subscribe to the second-grade edition for me.
I am very thankful for these two women who, even decades ago (this was after World War II but before Nintendo), were forward-thinking enough to offer me a challenge instead of trying to keep me in step with my peers. I have always loved to read. Kept me out of trouble, too, in those early-childhood days when I would wake up at dawn. Instead of starting a messy “craft” project, destroying the kitchen in an effort to make breakfast, or going out to climb trees, I would sit contentedly in my little rocking chair with a book. Or my Weekly Reader.
After we moved to Texas I discovered our church’s library. During first through third grades I read one kids’ mystery after another. After working my way through the Bobbsey Twins (gag — but they seemed almost logical at the time) and the Hardy Boys, I started in on Nancy Drew.
At school, every spare minute found me hunched over a book from the shelves in the back of our classroom. Fourth grade met at a bigger school, one with its own separate library. I merrily checked out book after book to take home, reading to my heart’s content (often, I admit, instead of doing my chores).
Sometime during the spring of my fourth grade year, a dreadful thought occurred to me: at the rate I was going, one day I would run out of books. I decided then that I must write some books, too. I figured that if everyone who loves to read would write a few books, then maybe we would not run out after all. So I sat down to write a story. In my naivete I thought writing was just like reading, where you just start and then see where the story goes. I decided on a “ghost story.” But after a rousing sentence or two, I realized that I had no clue where I was going or what would happen, and no idea how to make a story. It petered out after a couple of paragraphs.
Since then, I have had dreams of being a chemist, a botanist, an artist and a secretary. I went through two or three changes of major in college; and am in a happy marriage during which I enjoyed a “temporary” secretarial career lasting a total of sixteen years, interrupted by a nine-year break while our boys were little.
Finally, Firstborn was ready to go off to college and Secondborn to start high school. I decided to go back to college myself, and finally finish an undergraduate degree. So I started in part time, and graduated with a BA in English in May of 2009.
About that time my current freelancing opportunity dropped into my lap, so now I get to write professionally. It was quite the long way around, but here I am.
And I still read every chance I get.