Mia: Shaken Not Stirred

The true life stories of a NYC female.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Once Upon A Time In The Kingdom of New York

I love to read, something obviously inherited from my mom given the way she inhales books. As soon as I was old enough to walk by myself and hold onto a book with out losing my balance my parents got me my own library card and it turned out to be the most treasured possession of my childhood. My library card supplemented my Scholastic Book Club addiction and saw more action than a double jointed hooker at a sailor's convention and had the skid marks to prove it.

The other day my mother was standing in front of our book cases looking totally frustrated while trying to find a spot for Milton’s “Paradise Lost”,when she pointed out that we'd officially run out of space for our books. “Your dad is going to have to build us another book case” she announced. I looked up from my online book shopping and scoped out the book cases and nodded. The 8x4 twin book cases with shelves deep enough to hold two rows of books per their seven shelves were filled to capacity. Every so often despite my protests mom gives away old books in order to make room for new books, “It's a good thing to do" she always says, "passing on the love of the written word!” For me it's hard to part with the books so she does it when I am not around. Funny how I have absolutely no problem with giving money or clothing away but when it comes to my books that's another matter. I love my books. I read them over and over finding new things in them each time. They are more than just paper and binding. They are treasured friends each containing special memories for me so parting with them is hard. This year mom has no books she can bear to part with so my dad has no choice but to build another book case or watch her make good on her threat to evict a kid from their bedroom and convert it into a library. I’m not too sure she is playing when she says that and neither is my dad.

My fertile imagination, love of books and fairies for that matter sputtered to life when I first heard the phrase “Once upon a time in the kingdom of New York …” from my mother's mouth. As a kid my mother would make up fairy tales to keep us entertained. My siblings and me were always a part of her stories. Sometimes I’d turn up as a mischievous sprite, my sister Caitlin would be the princess of a village called Central Park and my brother Steven was the knight in not so shining armor due to his reluctance to clean and buff his armor in between his adventures. My uncles would always make an appearance as well as jesters, dragons, wizards, and kings. Sometimes our characters were goodness personified and other times we weren’t so great but we all had potential and by the end of the story we’d see the error of our ways. Between you and me I think the woman was trying to tell us something.

By the third grade I was reading Dean Koontz and books on the Third Reich much to the shock of my teachers who questioned my parents about my choice of reading material. I think they thought that I was going to grow up to be a serial killer or something. My parents never censored what I read. They were fully aware of what I was reading because my mom an avid reader would have her own copy of what I was currently into and read along with me. My parent's attitude was if I could put the letters together, sound out the words, and understand what I was reading well then go for it. No matter what I read my mother and I would discuss it after I was done. It's something we still do to this day.

Thanks to the magic of books I have slain dragons, witnessed Hamlet’s descent into madness, been lost in Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, touched by Shylock’s monologue in The Merchant of Venice. I was thrilled when Thumbelina finally got her wings, and for awhile had a healthy fear of the dark thanks to Stephen King. As an adult I’ve cheered for every Jennifer Weiner heroine, rooted for Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters, Ann Rice's Lestat The Vampire, and have been moved by the likes of Esmeralda Santiago, Zora Neale Hurston, Harriet Jacobs,Jane Austen, and Lord Byron.

It’s funny though no matter how many authors I read and love my favorite stories still begin with “Once upon a time in the kingdom of New York…”


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