The setting for the reunion was nothing special. A bustling hospital cafeteria, filled with the crisscrossing of busy hospital staff and worried family members. Over the course of seventy-five minutes, we caught up, complained, encouraged and emphasized. Both of us are mothers, nurses, wives and daughters, so conversation ran rampant. Despite the years that existed between our last visit, we picked up from where we left off and somehow covered all the bases. As we shared a hug at the end of our lunch, I realized that I felt more energized than I had in days. A few days later, as I sat and started flipping through potential topics for this post, I found myself returning to that visit and feeling that came with it, knowing there were dots to be connected.
In a quiet moment of clarity, I found the common thread. I get many of the same feelings after visiting with a dear friend that I do after reading a favorite book. The books I return to, time and again, in times of troubles and triumphs that never let me down. I can think of a couple of recent run-ins with ‘old friends’ of this nature. There’s the one that I recently shared with my sister when I knew she was ready for its wisdom (Simple Abundance). Of course, there are ones that I’ve read countless times, for a number of reasons or no reason at all (The Alchemist, Pride & Prejudice). Most recently, I came across another ‘friend’ rather unexpectedly but soon realized that it was not so coincidentally. At a time when I found myself both in need of an escape and desperate for culinary inspiration, The School of Essential Ingredients once again delivered.
This isn’t unique to my adult life, however, because there are books I can think of that carried me through my adolescence (The Outsiders, Little Women, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret). But it’s those first, favorite childhood story books that taught me how to have a meaningful relationship with a book. The Velveteen Rabbit, I Love you Forever and The Giving Tree along with countless others shared themselves with me and became part of the fabric of who I am. In fact, Oh the Places You’ll Go talked me out of a long distance move as an adult (because I did not “find any (streets) I wanted to go down,” and so I took the sage advice of Dr. Seuss and “head(ed) straight out of town”).
I wrote in an earlier post about my tendency to get lost in a book. But maybe, the book doesn’t consume me, as much as I share a part of myself with the book. A good relationship is built on the delicate balance of giving and receiving, and the times that I’ve done this have allowed books to leave lasting impressions on me. What is this ‘secret sauce’ that draws me in, I wonder? What is it that allow these books to resonate so deeply with me that I ‘hear’ their lines in my head? Why do they stay so close to the surface, instead of fading into my forgetful brain like hundreds of others have done? Most importantly, how can I get some of that for my own books?!?
As I walked away from lunch that day, I vowed to myself to not let so much time pass between our next visit. And as I finished Essential Ingredients this last time, I made the same promise. I’m not sure I’ll make good on either of those, but as I lovingly placed my book back on its shelf I couldn’t help but offer up a quiet ‘thank you’, for once again folding me into a warm embrace within her pages.
To make sure I give all proper credit where it is due, let me officially introduce all of the ‘friends’ mentioned above:
Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen I Love you Forever by Robert N. Munsch The Alchemist by Paul Coelho The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Thanks for reading, come back anytime!