When I was a kid, I used to spend a good deal of my free time in the local bookstore trying to figure out how to convert whatever money I had into the greatest number of books possible.
The year I turned ten, I remember coveting the boxed set of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. Every time I got within ten feet of the store, I begged my parents to let me go in so I could look at it. I would bring in my money and have the store’s owner help me count it to see if I had enough to buy the set, only to leave disappointed that I’d come up short. It seemed that I’d never have enough to call those glorious books my own.
Unbeknownst to me, my parents had told the owner that under no circumstances was she allowed to sell me that set of books because they were going to buy them for me for Christmas.
On Christmas morning I was shocked to find that Santa had brought me the thing I’d wanted most. I don’t think I left my room for weeks, foregoing tv and playdates with friends in order to find out where Uncle Andrew’s magic rings would take Digory and Polly, to wonder if there was a candy as fine as turkish delight and whether or not fawns and beavers could really talk. With the exception of the computer I’m typing this post on now, I don’t know that I’ve ever received a gift that I’ve enjoyed more.
When I think back on Christmas Past, I think about all of the great books that I received over the years:
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton – the first book I read that made me think that a woman could succeed as a writer.
The Dark Half by Stephen King – the first book that caused me to lose sleep.
The Little House on the Prarie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder – books that made me think about how the world had changed, how hard people worked and how easy our lives seemed in comparison. No phone? No tv? How did those poor kids ever survive?
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein – the first book of poetry I ever read which made being silly and surreal and weird, normal.
I’ve been revisiting some of those favorites again. It’s been a fun experience, though at times a little sad, too. It’s funny how hearing a song or reading a book can almost take you back to where your head was the first time you heard/read it.
If you have a favorite Christmas book related memory, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to share.