Day 16 – Nostalgic – The Books of our Childhood
The older I get, the more nostalgic I become. About everything. Some days, a picture or a smell or a conversation, opens the floodgates and lost memories, long buried under the weight of growing up, suddenly float past. These memories are like signposts, read in reverse. They point out quite clearly, that the path I am standing on today, is composed of the same stuff I held in my heart, as a kid. Not so long ago, I started collecting my childhood books and as I add to this collection, I see, again and again, the links these books have, with the woman I am today.
Take this picture book of ‘The Three Little Pigs’. I loved everything about it but it was the idea of becoming independent and making a home that especially appealed to me. And it still does, after all these years. Home. It’s the centre of my universe. And I would light a blazing fire too and keep out anyone who threatened to hurt the people that shelter inside.
Then, there were the characters I loved, like Mary Poppins. Her optimism, enthusiasm and her innate ability to solve problems with good humour and grace; these are the very same qualities, I look for and admire in the people around me. The way MP could take a group of kids, weave a little magic and turn the lot, into a wonderful adventure, is the essence of great teaching.
And my love affair with Asia. I have only recently made the connection that the first seeds of this lifelong romance, were in fact, planted in some of my favourite childhood stories. ‘Little Pear Goes to the Fair’ and ‘The Five Chinese Brothers’, I almost knew these two stories by heart. There is Little Pear, hidden under the cabbages in his father’s wheelbarrow, soaking in the mysterious sounds and smells of the marketplace, catching glimpses of chaotic colour between the cracks. When I visit a market in Asia, I am right back there, looking between the cracks, soaking in all in. Trying my best to capture in words and images, the wonderful madness and colour around me. You see, Little Pear, I have never forgotten. I was with you, every step of the way.
It’s because of ‘Miss Happiness and Miss Flower’ that I was forever using carboard boxes to make traditional Japanese houses for my dolls. I have not yet travelled to Japan but once a year, I run an intensive English program with a group of Japanese students, and for this two weeks I get totally lost in the beauty, the culture and stories of their lives, just as I did many years ago, between the pages of this old book.
Kindles, ipads - I know they’re all the rage and I’ll get one eventually. I’ll download a bazillion apps and save hundreds of dollars on books. But they won’t have that delicious, musty smell of an old book or the biro marks in the corner of pages, where some kid has experimented with writing a story of their own. They’ll never come with a handwritten note from the giver, in cursive script. Long live the books of our childhood and the stories they whisper in our ears about who we once were and who we have become.
What was one of your favourite childhood books? Do you own a copy? What did you love about it? Please tell…