Some people remember their first book the way others remember their first lover. I have no such memories. I remember reading a lot as a kid, but I don’t remember the first book I ever read. There are books I still remember; I have that much. I remember The Ghost Next Door, the book about the owl with love in its eyes. The post I linked to is from 2011, and what I didn’t say in that post is how long I searched for the name of that book. How long I thought about writing that post before I even could because I didn’t want to write about a book without a title. This was back when owls were really popular (yesterday’s fox, or whatever animal we’re on now), so I had constant reminders of the plot. I searched the internet trying all sorts of keyword searches. I experienced a huge flood of excitement when I finally found a title and link to the book.
The other book I remember is one I can’t name. It was about a middle school girl who was having problems at home and feeling hopeless. I believe her parents were on the verge of divorce. Her brother stuffed orange seeds in his teddy bear for vitamin C. A new teacher arrives at school, possibly teaches drama, and inspires the students to talk about their feelings and pretty much goes around doing Things That Are Cool And Different. The parents didn’t like her, there was a PTA meeting to have her fired for, I don’t know, excessive awesomeness or something. I believe she was fired, and the moral was “haters gonna hate” because that’s how books ended in the 70s and 80s. I’m sure I’ve seen this book in the library at school. I need to scour the shelves and see if my name is still in the book.
Other than that, I don’t remember much, and that’s probably because I didn’t spend my formative years delving into the classics. According to certain lists, ahem, I wasn’t even delving into award winning books. I was a pedestrian child. I’m arguably a pedestrian adult, but that’s for another day.
I don’t remember the book that made me a reader, but I do remember the book that made me a passionate reader. I remember the book that showed me the difference between reading books and reading literature. I don’t mean literature with a capital L so that everyone knows you are so smart and so important and so not-so secretly crippled with self doubt. I’m talking about literature with a capital OMG, the kind that amazes you and haunts you and leaves you breathless. The kind of literature that takes your little snow globe of a life and shakes it until you don’t know up from down. The kind of literature that doesn’t come in trilogies or series because the author couldn’t possibly devote him/herself to a lifetime with these characters when there are so many more inside clawing their way out. That kind of literature.
Senior year, AP Literature, after years of being a “reader,” after years of staying up all night with a flashlight. That’s when I read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, and that’s when everything changed. I remember reading about the yellow butterflies and my mind splintering into a million pieces. I asked my mom about it and she just waved her hand and said “magical realism,” like…duh. Until then I had never heard of magical realism, but from that moment on, I was hooked. It was just the sort of insanity a twisted romantic like me can chew on for hours at a time.
Months later I was looking at the books in an airport newsstand, waiting for a flight to Mexico. There in the middle of a small table was a pile of books with a naked-ish lady on the front. More than that, though, was the author. I recognized him! My first author auto-buy. I read that book and felt even more of a rush than I did with One Hundred Years of Solitude. I came back to school and couldn’t stop talking about it–no one cared–until finally my teacher said he would make that book required reading next year. I envied those students.
I’m not one to reread books. I do reread favorite sections of books before I go to bed if I’m too tired to read something new. Love in the Time of Cholera is one of the few books I have reread. I read it again after I graduated college, and those 4 years of life experience, of love lost, gave the book more meaning and made it more important. Reading about Florentino Ariza’s decades long devotion to Fermina Daza reminded me of an ex-boyfriend, one I wrote off the summer before my senior year in high school in a fit of righteous rage. He was relentless in mending past hurts for years, no matter how many times I told him I would never forgive him. All through out college he would send me letters. Long letters apologizing for everything stupid he had done. He said he didn’t want to get back together–okay, he did–but he would be happy if we were just friends. I never answered his letters. Bumping into him when I would come home was a nightmare. I avoided going where I thought he might be, but still I heard of him through friends or friends of friends.
Months after I graduated college, free of yet another lousy boyfriend, I saw him. Or he called. Or maybe he sent yet another letter? All I know is that it was after I reread Love in the Time of Cholera so this time, almost 6 years later, I spoke to him and told him being friends didn’t sound like a bad idea. I told him all about college, and my lousy ex-boyfriend, and the me I had become in 6 years. I told him how much I loved reading and shared some of my favorite books. I bought him a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera. “Read it,” I said. “It’s my favorite book of all time and you remind me of Florentino.”
On April 17, 2014, it was the boy I swore in 1989 I would never speak to again who let me know via text that Gabriel García Márquez had died. Still Florentino, after all these years.
The boys sang again in the children’s choir for the family Easter mass. I love the relationships we are building with the priests and with the parishioners. It makes religion easier. Much to this hermit’s dismay, it appears the secret to life is participation. When you participate and are engaged, everything (family, school, work, religion) seems like less work. Not all the time, but usually. I’ve mentioned this before, but moving to the front of the church was a game changer for us. (Holy cow! That post is from 2011!) Getting to know the priest on a first name basis was another scary-but-worthwhile move on our part. Now I feel comfortable texting him to see if he wants a Starbucks. He tries to go all “vow of poverty” on me, but I see through him like cheesecloth.
We enjoyed a quiet Easter this year at our house with just my mom, brothers, sister in-law, and of course, Miss Gabby. My youngest brother, Paul, brought over the best tasting empanadas I have ever had. I ate two, and I don’t even like empanadas that much. Usually I can get by with eating half of one!
The boys received their traditional gift of “shoes I wouldn’t normally buy for growing boys” from my brother and sister in-law. Last year they got Chucks, and I can’t believe Mikey was able to fit in those shoes last year. I remember they were big on him, even! The basketball shoes he got this year are 2 sizes bigger than the Chucks he got last year. This, people. This is why I don’t buy the boys fancy sneakers. Nikes, Sketchers, Chucks, okay. Lebron James basketball shoes? Hahahahah. No. What my brother and sister in-law paid for those shoes…crazy town! The boys love them, though. If Mikey could sleep in them, he would.
Mikey and Nico might have been surprised by the shoes, but they got to surprise my family with the hermit crabs. It seems like everyone forgot we had them. Even my mother in-law said, “Wait, are those the same ones from last year? And they’re still alive?” Of course they are! Our school festival goldfish lasted 5 years, thankyouverymuch. I’m quite good at keeping animals alive that normally only last weeks. I suppose hand feeding a hermit crab a slice of watermelon at the table while my mom has a stroke has something to do with it.
The other day a 2nd grader made a comment about my glasses, which I’ve been wearing nonstop since January.
“Mrs. Kendall,” she said. “I think you’re pretty, but you’re a million times prettier without your glasses.” I laughed and told her she’d have to learn to like my glasses because I can’t see without them.
I didn’t take offense. Kids are honest, and she prefers me without glasses. I know my glasses–red, heavy and large–are arguably man repellers and not for everyone. I like them, and I’ve grown so accustomed to them that my reflection in the mirror looks odd on the rare occasion I don’t have them on. I have only one problem with wearing glasses. I can’t wear mascara. When I do, my lashes brush up against the lenses and smear my vision.
Here’s the thing; I shouldn’t wear mascara with or without glasses. I’m allergic to some chemical in most mascaras. Whatever it is burns my eyes something fierce and makes them red and glassy. Tearing up while wearing mascara is like splashing my eyes with rubbing alcohol. You would think this would be enough of a reason to forgo wearing mascara. It was not. Instead, I’d wait to put on mascara until right before “the event” so I had an hour or two of comfortable vision. (?) If I had a long commute to where I was going, I would put on my mascara in the parking lot. No sense wasting good eyes on the drive! And yes, I tried many of the natural mascaras on the market. Those produced some of the worst reactions for some reason.
I also rarely leave the house without makeup. I wear Garnier’s BB Cream and dark circle eye roller, which I then seal with a powder. Once I’m done, I add a little cream blush and tinted lip gloss because the unnaturally smooth and uniform appearance of my skin reminds me of a corpse. Finally, I fix my eyebrows with a gel, making sure to hide the scar I have in my right eyebrow. This is what I do on most days, and what I did in the above picture. On very, very special occasions I will use eyeshadow and eye liner and, yes, mascara.
My skin has never been in such poor condition. I have dark circles from lack of sleep and genetics. My skin is uneven, dry, and rough. My cheeks will itch for no reason. I get breakouts. There is a dry spot on my chin that I pick at repeatedly, often without realizing it. You can see it peaking out of my makeup in the picture. I didn’t realize it was so bad until twice I went without makeup and twice people asked me about the bruise on my chin. Both people jokingly asked if the Mister punched me. Nope! That skin damage is self inflicted, thanks. (I just caught myself doing it just now. I do it a lot when I’m thinking, reading, editing, etc.)
I don’t think it’s the products because my skin was worse before I started using the oil cleanser a few weeks ago. This post isn’t a slam on Garnier products.
This is me on the day of my high school graduation in May of 1990. Maybe June? Point: almost 24 years ago. A lot can happen in 24 years.
I rarely wore makeup, not even to my graduation. My skin! I can’t believe how fantastic my skin looks, and how absolutely clueless I was about my fantastic skin. Sure, my eyebrows are an uneven mess and my hair is crawling up my skull like a cresting tsunami, but my eyelashes were naturally thick. Not as thick as they appear in the picture–that’s just a fortunate lighting illusion–but thick enough that I never wore mascara. Far thicker than they are now. (Eyelashes thin with age, sadly.) I never wore face makeup of any kind. Blush and eyeliner, sometimes. At night, I splashed my face with cold water. I did the same thing in the morning. That was my grand beauty routine.
If I could blame the condition of my skin on one thing, even though I know it’s not just one thing, I would point the finger at regular makeup use. When I graduated college and started working, wearing makeup, everything went to pot.
Nicole linked to two interesting posts on her weekly round up on Friday. This one, by 25 year old Man Repeller Leandra Medine, talks about why she doesn’t wear makeup. The other link, by Jezebel, rightly argues that going without makeup isn’t that big a deal–or shouldn’t be.
Those posts got me thinking about my face, what I put on it, and why. I should toss out my mascara now while I’m feeling empowered (haha). More food for thought: Jessica Ledwich’s Monstrous Feminine series, featured here.
I’ve been taking impromptu surveys of the kids. I ask them if they like library time, if being in the library has changed how they view reading, if it has changed how much they read, and how I can do better next year. I have a ton of these, so I’m going to spread them out a bit. I guess this is really more for me, to remember my first year in the library and how it changed my life.
I read more now because I figured out reading is fun.
Some books have lessons for kids.
Sometimes people can’t afford books to read, so we get to get them here.
I like everything about library, but it takes a while to get a new book. A lot of the books are super old–like from 1997.
I want more fair tale books.
Every time you read a book, you go into another adventure and meet new people.
We read an hour every night now! We call it family reading time.
I just want to read, read, read, read, read until I…I don’t know…fall off my bed.
I feel like my school has everything now.
It totally changed my point of view of being quiet.
From the older boy who checked out a romance
I know can check out whatever book I want and you won’t make fun of me.
photo source: Lady Bird Johnson visiting a classroom for Project Head Start. The National Archives.
“Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated . . .” With her grandmother’s taunt, Louise knew that she, like the biblical Esau, was the despised elder twin. Caroline, her selfish younger sister, was the one everyone loved.
Growing up on a tiny Chesapeake Bay island in the early 1940s, angry Louise reveals how Caroline robbed her of everything: her hopes for schooling, her friends, her mother, even her name. While everyone pampered Caroline, Wheeze (her sister’s name for her) began to learn the ways of the watermen and the secrets of the island, especially of old Captain Wallace, who had mysteriously returned after fifty years. The war unexpectedly gave this independent girl a chance to fulfill her childish dream to work as a watermen alongside her father. But the dream did not satisfy the woman she was becoming. Alone and unsure, Louise began to fight her way to a place where Caroline could not reach.
I did it! I read my first Newbery Gold Medal winner–Jacob Have I Loved, if the enormous image of the book didn’t tip you off. I posted a picture of the book on instagram and apparently gave someone traumatic middle school flashbacks. Hah! I have no such flashbacks because my librarian, Mrs. Green, wouldn’t let me read it because it “was not appropriate for a 6th grade girl.”
This book went along with me wherever I went the last couple of months, but I didn’t really start reading it until the other day, when I failed this fun BuzzFeed quiz on Newbery winners. How embarrassing. I’ve read ONE, The One and Only Ivan. I’ve read a ton of silver and honorable mention books, so I guess that’s something. You can see the list of gold medal winners in this post.
On the other hand, I was the dominator of the “How Many Banned Books Have You Read” quiz.
There’s Mrs. Green’s infamous red pen! I have no idea who Emma is, but I know she wasn’t in 3rd grade. Not on Mrs. Green’s watch! That must stand for the number of “soiled pages” attributed to the slovenly Miss Emma. I told the 4th graders about Mrs. Green the other day, and how she wouldn’t allow us to say a word when we were in the library. She monitored what we read like hawks and and ran that thin-walled mobile trailer like a military base. Then, I told them how I walked to school in the snow uphill, both ways.
Jacob Have I Loved was good in a sad way, so of course I loved it. Nothing like sibling rivalry that never really gets resolved to warm the cockles of my cold, black heart. Toss is a 14 year old’s crush on a 70 year old man, an insane Methodist grandmother, loving but clueless parents, and the struggle to find your identity on an island off Maryland in 1945, and you’ve got the makings of a book you will never forget.