I remember my first hardcover vividly. It was around my seventh or eighth birthday, and I was staying at my grandparent’s house for the weekend, as usual. I am a child of spring, so that day the heavy warm breeze tousled the tulips and confetti bushes that sit below the old wood-framed windows and that grasp at your legs as you walk by. The sun was high and bright. One of those suns that makes water sparkle like diamonds and grass shimmer like a field of emeralds. I was a flower child, tasting the wind and taking life from the budding trees and using it to fuel my passion for making decadent mudpies.
My grandfather called me over to the basement door and, swirling and twirling, I obeyed. My grandfather (Pips, to me), is a tall man with black hair and authoritative eyebrows. He has a black mustache that sits just under his nose that adds sharpness to his features, but that curves delightfully when he smiles. His vest, which he always wears, was pulled out from his body, and I was curious to know what was inside.
Carefully, quietly, he told me that he had something for me. I could feel the thrill of excitement in my bones. Curiosity tickled my spine. I waited patiently as he drew out three books and placed them in my hands. The weight of them was delicious. I sat down in the dirt and gathered them on my lap. I studied the first slowly, taking everything in. The protective cover squeaked beneath my fingertips and reflected the sun so boldly that I had to squint. I pulled the cover back gently, not wanting to crack the spine. I could smell paper and ink mingled with warm apple blossoms and sunshine. The pages were smooth and white and perfect. When the breeze buffeted the pages, I closed the book, fearful that the words would be blown away with the dust.
I remember not knowing what to say. I’d had books given to me before, but I’d never had three brand new hardcovers to call my own. We’d even shared stories from the books before, but now he had given me the chance to learn them on my own, to read the ones that he hadn’t shared. He had, in that small moment, given me my own escape from the darker days of childhood.
He has since given me many more books, some old, some new, all handpicked by him for me. We have spent the years exchanging our favourite stories, poems, and adventures, all while living far from each other for the last seven. I have enjoyed every single book that he has given to me, even though some I never would have picked for myself. It is because of him that I love the written word. He started my great love affair with writing.
Who started yours?
If you’re curious as to what books I received that day, they were All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small, and All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriot. I recommend these books to animals lovers of any age. They are still some of my favourites to this day.