Big dramatic crocodile tears slid down her round three-year-old cheeks. I lay in her bed shoved against the wall with her small body curled into my shoulder. Every night we snuggle together and read books, all kinds of book.
That night I read her a chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as I neared the end she sobbed. I groaned, annoyed at the tears, protesting an imminent bedtime. I almost snapped at her, “You know tears won’t get you what you want!” But instead I asked, “What’s wrong honey?”
“Mommy, I’m just so sad, the book is almost done. We’re going to finish it tomorrow.” Sobs shook her body. My insides smiled, recognizing a familiar sentiment. My three-year-old daughter loved books. She loved books like I love books. She listened to chapter after chapter, magically transported to Mr. Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, Narnia, or the foxhole beneath the farms of Bogis, Bunce, and Bean. In our house, the greatest punishment I can dole is “No Books Tonight!” On this night, my daughter felt the grief that comes when a beloved book ends. She cried for the loss of her book.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband felt similarly as he lay beside me, reading the fifth book of the Game of Thrones series, “Babe, I don’t know what I’m going to do, I only have twenty pages left,” he said as he devoured the final pages. A week later, he lamented, “I just can’t get myself to read anything else.”
I shared her grief, as I lay on my bed lost in The Fault in Our Stars. I loved Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters. The book pummeled me. Tears and snot soaked my face. My husband unexpectedly entered the room, “It is just so good, I can’t stop crying,” I told him, slightly embarrassed. He looked at me, awed by the strength of my emotion.
A summer morning, I’m 19-years-old, eating brunch with my grandmother. “What are you studying?” She asked, attempting to glean information about my first semester in college. I told her my favorite class was English Literature. “What was your favorite book?” she asked because she too loved books and stories.
“Tess of the D’Urbervilles,” I responded without hesitation.
A smile spread across her face. “You know that was one of my favorites when I was your age.” Our bond cemented by the shared love and understanding of a book.
A sad spring morning, I’m 33-years-old, standing in my Dad’s kitchen in Palm Springs, CA. My dad died two days before. In my grief I’m drawn to his books. Books, the constant bridge throughout our complex relationship, a thread of understanding when other connections failed. I thumbed through his copy of Rainer Maria Rilke’s On Love and Other Difficulties, noticing the highlighted passages shared in his copy as in mine. John Irving novels spotted his shelves.
A note pad lay on the generic white counter by his telephone. My heart stopped at the sight, my latest book recommendations, written in his artful script. The titles scrawled across a notepad, evidence of our last conversation. Book titles, jotted down, symbolized his love and respect.
My daughter cried for the love of books. I get it, this love of books, I definitely get it.
Do you love books? What are your all time favorites? What are the best books you’ve read this year?