I used to read to hide; now I read to be found.
Reading books has been a part of my life since I was 3. According to my Mom’s stories, her first born prodigy was reading Mother Goose alone out loud at the age of 3. I received a lot of encouragement to read.
And reading is what I turned to when life got chaotic.
Around the age of 10 my mother went back to school at night to get a Master’s degree that would garner a higher salary as a teacher. My brother was 6 and his special needs were revealing themselves at school: attention deficit and some processing disorders. A true spectrum child. In those days there wasn’t the level of knowledge or support either for home or school; emotional outbursts and disruptive behavior were seen as bad behavior not as a cry for help by a child trapped in a body that wouldn’t or couldn’t do what was asked.
My Dad was working 6 days a week at a job that wasn’t his passion; he was a man meant to work with his hands creating things. But there is no money in that. So between work that was passionless, a son that was out of control, a wife that was gone all day and late into the night, losing oneself in TV and beer was the best course.
All of this was too much for me, so I would get lost in books.
Upstairs in my room with the door open to keep an ear attuned to when someone was heading up the stairs, I would go away to Prince Edward Island. Anne Shirley became my expression of freedom and precocious behavior that I wasn’t allowed. I read every single Lucy Maud Montgomery book in succession. I had the entire original edition series in hardback thanks to my great-aunt Mildred who worked in a children’s bookstore in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Anne with an E. That’s me. Lisa Anne. My mother was Betty Anne. She refused to be called Betty. Her grandmother was Anne Elizabeth. Lots of Anne with an E in our family. I didn’t get to pass that along to either of my sons; somehow it just didn’t fit…
Reading allowed me a place of escape, a place of refuge, a place of enjoyment. Of course I didn’t realize all this at that time. Coming back from the imaginary lives of these well written characters to the reality of the chaotic life I which I was a real life character was jarring sometimes. Visions of cherry trees in blossom being called the Great White Way; Anne and Diana playing together were helpful internal escapes when the yelling and crying started.
The yelling and crying continued for the next 7 years and I suspect it continued after I graduated and moved away to college. I turned down UCLA because we lived too close for me to be in the dorms and I just couldn’t continue to live at home. The chaos was excruciating.
But the shelter of books changed in college. There was no time for pleasure reading to hide from the hurts of my childhood. So I chose to numb out in other ways while books became tools for grades and accomplishment instead.
As a teacher and later as a parent I reconnected with the joy of story as I shared my early- love of reading with children. Oh how I love to watch the faces of children as they listen to a good story unfold! Reading aloud to my students and my sons, helping children see with the eyes of imagination was my favorite part of working with children.
Reconnecting with stories and seeing with redeemed eyes has been the deepest pleasure; imagined story that connects with the One True Story giving way to seeing how our stories connect with His story…so good! Great literature does that well.
Books remain my best source of growth, imagination and relaxation. Reading is something I make time for daily even if it’s only ten minutes here or there; reading is still a passion even without external chaos.
Do you read? Is it a place of refuge? What do you like to read?