I have only vague memories of my mother teaching me to read. To her credit, I don’t know that she had any reference books telling her how to do so. I certainly don’t remember seeing textbooks of any kind around the house. I was probably three or four. I remember feeling so proud that I could carry a book under my arm on my way up the stairs to bed so I could read before I went to sleep. It was probably Dr. Seuss, but hey, you have to start somewhere.
For the first thirteen years of my life, we were living in Wilmington, Mass. I utterly adored the library and we probably went every two weeks. It wasn’t long before I was picking out my own. My heroine when I was first of library age was Pocohontas. I don’t remember who introduced to me Esther Averill, but the Jenny Linsky books were an early favorite. Enid Blyton was probably my first mystery author. I went through the Secret Seven and the Famous Five at a rate of one or two a week. There was Nancy Drew, of course, then the Hardy Boys, and once I went through those, I got to read the Young Adult fiction, even though I was about nine. I was not allowed in the rest of the “adult” library just yet.
My third grade teacher at Shawsheen School was Mrs. Jane Merrill. If you’re out there, Mrs. Merrill, I have to thank you for some perennial favorites. Roald Dahl, Narnia, and Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth all have very special places in my heart. I have been known to buy the last for my adult friends because I think everyone should read it.
Even when we moved to Andover, the next town over, we continued to be patrons of the Wilmington library. It might have been my nana or my mother or one of the librarians or I might have picked her up on my own, but when I found Agatha Christie’s Nemesis, I was hooked on Miss Jane Marple. Hercule Poirot was a natural segue, but my favorites were Tommy and Tuppence. I always wanted more of those.
I wish I could remember the librarian’s name. One evening we were headed out and we were stopped by the librarian. She handed me a grocery bag full of slightly beat-up Agatha Christie novels. They had been considered too damaged to keep on the shelves, and she thought I’d like them.
Of such kindnesses addicts are made. Thank you, ladies.