I was an only, lonely child. I had no other relatives except one pair of adoptive parents and one pair of adoptive grandparents. That’s it. And my father’s occupation required that we move to a new city often, so I never learned the art of socializing.
This combination of factors was responsible for me being an introvert and for books being my only friends as I grew up. I disappeared in the worlds opened to me between the pages of books: Alice in Wonderland, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh, and other childhood classics as well as many obscure titles (like Wind on the Moon). I was a member of a children’s book club. I joined the library book club summer reading program every year. One summer I read every book on the small Ojai Valley Library sci-fi shelves. I read under the covers with a flashlight. I read in the crotch of my grandmother’s apple tree. I read in tree houses, in orange groves, in travel trailers, the the back seat of cars, in restaurants, in waiting rooms, and among water willows near one of the homes where I lived.
My grandfather used to serve me milk with a little coffee in it (about 4 parts milk:1 part coffee) when I was around four. He served it to everyone in multi-colored Fiestaware pottery tumblers with removable wooden and steel go-along handles. Over time he kept adding more coffee to my milk until he decided I was old enough to change the ratio: 1 part half and half: 4 parts coffee. I’d sit at my grandparents’ Formica table and read: Gone with the Wind, The Confessions of Nat Turner, The Virginian and drink coffee laced with half and half every day, lost in the fictive dream. My grandfather meant well. He had no idea I’d be a life-long coffee addict with a big fat reading habit. As I wrote in another post, I’m the world’s slowest reader, but that’s okay. Maybe I savor my books because life’s too short to waste on forgettable fiction.
P.S. I still don’t have any friends, but I have a LOT more books (read and un-read) on my shelves.