I'm surprised sometimes by the words that linger in my head long after they're said.
They keep replaying in the background as if they were spoken yesterday instead of years ago. And often it's the critical words I remember rather than the affirming ones.
I have always loved books and grew up savoring words written on a page. Words that were mostly woven into fiction stories. Classic books that spoke in beautiful imagery, and modern books that told an exhilarating story.
I liked this genre of books until after college, when a boyfriend told me he thought I lived in a fantasy world. He was very concerned that I would live my life inspired by fiction and believing in fairy tales. (I wonder if what he might have meant was that perhaps I would discover life with him wouldn’t have a storybook ending.)
But I haven't forgotten his words. And I took his critique to heart.
As the lone relic of our relationship, I started reading biographies, memoirs and non-fiction.
I found that I liked reading the true stories of real people.
I liked accompanying these authors on their real-life literary journeys.
Because sometimes I recognized a sliver of myself as I shared their experiences with them, peeking through a window at their lives.
Now my bookshelves are lined with books about skating, cooking and Paris. Biographies about famous people and memoirs by ordinary souls just sharing their lives.
The books are absorbing, enduring and welcoming. I feel at home just looking at their familiar covers.
Years ago when my sister moved out of our shared condo to get married, we had a custody battle over our books.
As she packed up her belongings, I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. She would take her books. I’d keep mine. And we’d split the rest.
Then we started sorting the stacks.
We couldn’t decide who would get our favorites -- a series of historical novels written in the 1940s and 50s by Elswyth Thane, and a series of juvenile novels called The Keeping Days by Norma Johnston.
She let me make the choice.
I thought about it for weeks because I loved them both. Finally, I opted to keep the Elswyth Thane books.
The charming hardbacks with tattered dust covers were long out of print, and I thought it might be more difficult to find replacements. So my Keeping Days books that sat on my bookshelves since middle school, departed in the boxes of my sister’s belongings.
I missed my old books. And I felt like I’d lost my best friends.
Not only was I missing my sister living with me, I no longer had The Keeping Days to cheer me up.
For Christmas a few years ago, my sister surprised me with a set of my own Keeping Days books.
It seems they had become a hot commodity since they were out of print and it took her months of online shopping to track down the entire set.
I welcomed them back to my bookshelves like old friends. These words on a page tell a powerful story.
Whether it's fiction or non-fiction that I'm reading, the stories help me make sense of my own.
To understand that no matter how different someone's experiences may be from my own, they're still a lot like me.
To appreciate that everyone has a unique and interesting story to tell.
To admire these gifted writers that have a skill and talent that I'd like to emulate.
It's the power of the story that speaks to me.
With experiences that are true or words that are scripted into imagined sparkling dialogue. These are the stories I love to read.
The stories that inspire me to pick up my pen. Or open my laptop. And write the powerful words that will eventually turn into my story.