For my birthday this year, my parents gave me something old. And something I’ve long hoped to own. Not because it has monetary value, but because of a magical moment I spent in front of it some sixty-four years ago. Three years old, I had been sitting on a bench in front of it—a small children’s bookcase in our living room in Grantsville, Maryland. My parents had read the books on its shelves so often to me that I had memorized parts of them.
That morning for some reason, a few of those words popped out to me. Unexpectedly, I knew them. And they were on other pages. I tugged on my mom’s skirt as she changed my brother’s diaper.
“Look!” I said. “I know this word. It says ‘jump.’ I’m reading.”
I wanted to know every word in the world. All that day, I followed my mom from the kitchen sink to the ironing board to the rocking chair, always tugging on her skirt.
“What’s this word?” I’d ask her. “Is this word ‘laughed’?”
I can read, I told myself that night in bed.
The next morning before I opened my eyes. I thought something good had happened. And then I remembered—I could read.
I’m not sure where to put this little old bookshelf. In our living room? In my writing room? In a bedroom? And will I fill it again with children’s books? Or poetry? Or my Pearl S. Buck collection? Whichever room and whatever it holds, I’m glad to have it where I can see it often and remember the day when words began popping from pages to widen my world.