Welcome to the thoughts, rants and passions of a young Muslim woman seeking soulful enlightenment in cyberspace.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Love Affair with the Printed Page

When I was a wee little girl, the library was my candy store. All the colours and shapes and brothers and I couldn't resist. We were super-nerds, obsessed with books of all kinds – and we demanded a fresh supply every week.

We went to the library so frequently we had to change libraries every so often. Know how your clothes just get so old and ratty after a while that you can't stand them anymore? That's how it was with books. We read so many books, there weren't any new ones left. So we'd read them over. And when we got tired of them, we'd switch libraries. Going to a new library was terribly exciting. The novelty! We even visited the little bookmobiles that came by at one time. And bookstores? That was our treat. We'd patiently peruse the shelves for hours, searching for the perfect catch. We kept each possession in mint condition, only grudgingly allowing our siblings to read on condition that they promised to keep it clean.

You see, we were deprived as kids. Happened when were wee little young'uns. Poppa pulled the plug - with our permission. Being the reasonable Poppa that he is, he asked us first whether we thought it was a good idea. And truth is, our wee childish instincts told us Maria's kissy act on Sesame Street just wasn't right. So we said, yeah. Let's try it for a while. It was an experiment at first. A week later, Poppa asked us if we were still happy with our decision. We thought for a while and realized we hadn't even noticed the difference. And you know what? The tube never went back on. We had already discovered other things to do.

One of those things was…reading. Yes, we got so obsessed with books that we were perpetually in trouble for reading instead of doing our chores. You'd think our Momma would be happy her young'uns were so engrossed in something good. But no. Even worse, reading when we were supposed to be sleeping was another no-no. This is where our dinky five-dollar flashlights came in handy. Their tiny little bulbs shone a path into our books, lighting half a line at a time – just enough for us to enjoy an hour or two with our beloved books.

The dainty librarians called in extra duty when they saw us coming. They dreaded our visits, for it meant they'd have to work harder. Often we'd have two or three waiting on us, sighing and panting as they waded through our hundred or so books – though they struggled to conceal their admiration. Library patrons stood by, eyes wide, mouth gaping at the piles and piles of books we'd stuffed into bags and baskets. Some muttered and pouted and asked why we were allowed to borrow so many. But the dirty looks weren't enough to prevent us from dropping in weekly to collect our precious stash. We were starved - obsessed, really. If it weren't so embarrassing, it might've been hilarious.

Then there were simply too many books to carry during the 5-minute walk to our home. This is where Poppa and his trusty old car came in. We'd load our books into the vehicle, snagging a few to read on the way, and then a joyful silence would prevail until our Poppa announced we were home. Once he'd managed to convince us it would be better to continue reading at home, dear Poppa would unload the books while we pretended to help – though we really were more interested in the words dancing before our eyes - and then we'd stumble through the door and sprawl onto the carpeted living room floor with our hoarded pile of delights before us, already in our imagined world and uncaring of what transpired around us.

Until we were forced to get up. To eat, to clean up, it was always something or the other. And even then, we’d beg to finish the chapter, complete the page, anything to sustain the pleasure before we were forced to tear our eyes away.

We didn't have very much, but we knew how to read. And read we did. Our love affair with the printed page transformed our lives. Our education was not just about going to school. It was about exploration and imagination – and we did quite a bit of that. Our extensive reading broadened our minds. I remember bringing home a book called, "I Have Two Mommies", not realizing what it was about. Did Poppa say, don't read it? No, he explained what the title meant and we went on with life. And books that challenged our lifestyle and worldview only forced us to think and ask questions and ultimately become wiser in our decision-making and chosen way of life. I don't think television could have done that.

Did we miss out? Perhaps a little bit. All the kids talked about at school were the shows they'd watched the night before. Even at a young age, I thought those conversations were pretty meaningless. And I was ridiculed for not watching TV. How can you live without TV? I was constantly asked. Yes, the peer pressure was burdensome. But the sacrifice was worth it. My parents instilled in us a special love for books and learning. I wouldn't do it any differently if I had my own kids.

Coming up: End of the Love Affair


  • At 6/06/2005 12:11:00 a.m., Blogger izchan said…

    Found your blog via MM ... :)

    And I know what you mean. Reading is still an addiction of mine.

    One of my favourite dreams is sitting by the sea and reading while the winds gently carrass my skin.

    Nothing beats that.

  • At 6/06/2005 08:18:00 a.m., Blogger Shoshana said…

    One of the best things my parents ever did for me was to instill a love of reading. I also went through so many of the books in my library and would stay awake late at night plowing through the pages. I don't get people who don't read, I don't feel like their worlds are in color.

  • At 6/06/2005 02:44:00 p.m., Blogger cncz said…

    my mom had a tv ban as well, that I agreed to. more time to read. i still hate tv, except for two or three things.

  • At 6/09/2005 09:01:00 a.m., Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said…

    I was an avid TV watcher and a devoted bookworm - still am.

    I think too many kids of today miss out on reading, too much internet and IMing going on (says me!!)


  • At 6/16/2005 08:45:00 a.m., Blogger wayfarer said…

    nice post! My parents were the same way. We could watch a little tv but not much and it was usually the discovery channel on but loved the trips to the library. I still do. :-)


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