A Sea of Stories
Or how I fell in love with reading.
It was a long time ago that I learned to love books. According to my grandma, it all started when I was still in the crib. She says that whenever I cried (if not for hunger), my mom, instead of picking me up, would grab one of the fairytale anthologies at my grandma’s house, put it in the crib, and left. Since we lived with my grandparents until I was two years old, I supposed this kept happening. I’m not sure, but I think it came to a point where I would cry until there was a book in my hands. I guess I learned that books are always present, ready to show me a world of wonders I could escape to. I could always find solace in a book. They were always there. Silently waiting for me.
I’m pretty sure that, especially before I learned to read, the illustrations were a big part of this enchantment. The books I read in my grandma’s house were part of a collection of anthologies. Ten books that were beautifully illustrated. Now there’s nothing wrong with Quentin Blake’s type of illustrations. I absolutely love them, and they would become a big part of my childhood when I later discovered Roald Dahl’s books. But these illustrations were way above the norm. They had an amount of detail you rarely see in children’s books. They were masterpieces. You could frame them if that didn’t mean taking the book apart. Why was this so important? Because somebody cared. They put extra effort into these books, and I felt it. This blog’s picture is one of those illustrations. They told me the story without words, and I remember trying to understand the story (or making new ones) based on them. Then they started reading to me, and the illustrations were given a voice.
This collection I mention had fairytales from all over the world. There were the usual suspects, Grimm’s and Hans Christian Andersen’s stories (usually from England and Europe). But also, many stories from Spain, Latin America, and even Japanese fairytales. These pages were my first glimpse of different cultures, and I loved them. I remember trying to learn to read on my own. I would drive everyone crazy (both my parents and my grandma), asking them to read me a story. Then I would ask them to read that story again and again. When they tired, I’d go to the next person and do the same. At some point, I had memorized every line of the story. Then I would look at these weird symbols and try to figure out how to read, except that it turned out to be hardest than I thought. So, my parents had to step in and teach me how to read before I drove everyone crazy. I was three years old.
Learning to read was the greatest gift my family gave me. And teaching me how to write, of course. I remember seeing how my grandma would write poems or copy down biblical studies and telling her that I wanted to write “important stuff” like her. I’m sure I was a handful, but I loved stories so much, and books were shock-full of them. These pages would tell me about people in distant countries with customs and values different from mine. To me, these characters felt way too real. I knew they didn’t actually exist outside of these pages, but within them, they would breathe.
Books allowed me a glimpse into someone else’s life, trials, and triumphs. Soon I realized why I loved stories so much. They were a connection. We all love stories, we all have stories to tell, and we are stories. Stories are what make us human. When I read a story, I meet a soul. Whether that of the character or of the writer, but a soul nonetheless. This might explain why we readers fall in love with everyone but real people. There’s a living soul between the pages of a book. Books are portals to meet them through space and time. We are made of stories, and we make our story. And when we share them, we connect. We are all the books we have read, and we’ll live in the books that we leave. This is the truth that I discovered, books are friends.