October 16, 2020
My husband and I were recently trying to recall our earliest childhood memories. It occurred to me that, apart from stories I’ve been told or those imagined from old photos, my earliest memories are of books.
I had four books as a small child, and I memorized them all. I may have had others, but possibly not—my parents did not spend money easily. These four introduced me to the world of books in a myriad of ways. I’m sure that at least one of them was a Little Golden Book, but I don’t think they all were. I know they all had colorful pictures on every page and not too many words. I remember at least one picture vividly from each book.
My parents selected wisely, as the four books fell into very different categories. One was about panda bears. The picture I recall from this one was of the panda bear eating bamboo shoots. This book introduced me to the world of nature and wildlife, and the joy of eating.
The second book was about a little pig who disappeared one day after eating a bunch of donuts. The picture I recall from this one was of the little pig erasing the blackboard for his teacher. Although I had not started school, I longed for the experience with every fiber of my being. This book introduced me to mysteries. I do not write in this genre, but I appreciate an element of mystery in everything I read or write.
The third book was Sleeping Beauty. The picture I remember best is of the lopsided cake the godmothers made before applying their magic. This, of course, introduced me to fairy tales, villains, and romance.
The fourth book, my favorite, was called The Little Ballerina. It was about a little girl who had polio. I remember two illustrations from this one. The first is of the girl looking out her window at the children playing outside and wishing she could join them. The second is at a dance recital after she’s strengthened her legs by taking ballet lessons. I always wanted her to be the lead ballerina in the center. She wasn’t, but she was one of the dancers. This introduced me to the immense potential humans have for overcoming hardships and handicaps, and achieving our goals.
Since I knew all these books by heart at a young age, I could impress visitors by pretending to read. How I longed to read for real! If I had a knack for memorization back then, I’ve long since lost it. I cannot remember any of the books in their entirety, only bits and pieces. I do remember how much I loved them. Imagine my delight when I eventually discovered a library filled with shelf after shelf of books. Still, there aren’t too many I recall as clearly and as fondly as these four.