As we get older, we begin to miss the simplicity of a time when our focus was on getting out of a chore, or choosing what to wear to school, or wondering how we would make it through chemistry or French.
The complexities of the world were not thrown in our faces every day unless we chose to pick up a newspaper or turn on the six o’clock news. We didn’t constantly check our phone for emails, or headlines, or stock quotes.
One of my fondest memories is of the ice cream truck that jingled its way around the neighborhood every afternoon in summer. If I saved my allowance I could often get my favorite…vanilla ice cream bar covered in chocolate that started to drip the minute the paper came off.
Did I mention I was a chubby kid? I had braids and glasses, too, although I don’t think I ever wore braces. Braces were expensive and my teeth were straight…at least until I started playing a clarinet that pushed my upper teeth out slightly after several years of applying pressure. I never again smiled with my teeth exposed.
Books were important to me even then, but they were at the library. I remember spending hours in the basement of an old Carnegie Library where books for kids and teens were located. By the time I was ten, the librarian and I were on a first name basis. If a book she knew I’d like came in, she held it for me.
My mother despaired of my constant reading. “Go outside and play.” I was obedient. I packed up my books and found a place to read in the back yard.
It amazes me when I think back to when I started writing. All little kids like to make up stories using anything at hand. For me it was lining up toothpicks or pins to outline rooms in houses for my make believe people represented by colored spools of thread or better yet, my grandmother’s collection of perfume bottles. Eventually I took pencil to paper and created my own worlds.
Looking back I know I was one of the lucky ones. I had food, shelter, and parents who loved me. Basic needs met, I was free to focus on the trivial and when I had free time, to wander in worlds of escape created by my favorite authors and—inspired by them—worlds of my own.
Today when conundrums baffle me and problems with no immediate answer frustrate me I turn to books, not just for peace, but for understanding. But as I struggle for answers in a world that seems to grow angrier and more unkind, I fear the books I will write in the future may not be the light-hearted books I write today.
Because the little girl chasing the ice cream truck is no more.