The Secret Life of Books
Books have rich inner lives of their own, unbeknownst to many. They babble and talk amonst each other, gossip about what they saw in the homes of the people that took them home, and whisper about who had the chance to be read and seen that week.
This book always sat in the back shelves of the library, one row over from all the ‘popular’ kid’s books like Geronimo Stilton and the Magic Schoolbus. Kids always flocked to the first aisle, books always vying to be placed on display and on feature to be seen.
Most books got their turn in this row, a beautifully lit shelf under the skylight. It was here that most books had their first ’take-home’ experience – something akin to a coming of age.
Yet as the years came and went, this book left unread and unfeatured, sitting.
There was a sharp piercing laughter that rang through the halls, a sharp contrast to the usually hushed and muted sounds library. A young girl, no older than 8, ran through the halls waving books in her two small hands.
Hushed whispers spread amongst the books. “Look at her! She’s so special!”
A seemingly frazzled women stumbled after her, trying immensely to summon up the energy to even keep up with the child.
“Look ma!! This one starts with W too!” she squealed, pointing at “Wonders of the World”. An excited hush fell over the shelf as we all watched to see who she would pick next.
“Do you think she’s going to pick one of the new bestsellers?”
“No, those haven’t been hot with the kids lately. She’s going to want something of substance something that intrigues her inner world.”
“Don’t be stupid, she’s like 8. She’s probably going to pick one of us with a nice cover.”
All the other books chattered constantly as she sat and gazed at the rows and rows of shelves. Honestly, the chatter never really bothered me. I had my own little spot in the world – the end of 573.001. Sometimes I felt unworthy, a book no one wanted to read or reference. This little book society of ours, always praising being the popular book; the book that is ‘critically acclaimed’ or ‘insightful’. But I had become content living in my own little world for the past few years. A sort of internal beauty that I can’t really explain to anyone but myself.
“Ma, look at this one! It’s got pretty flowers on it! And it has two Ws!”
A sudden hush fell over the books; one had been chosen! I hadn’t cared to look, nor did I really intend to. At least until I felt the grasp of a childs hand on my spine. A grasp that has grasped crayons, carrots with might but also knew the tenderness and respect that one needs to have when holding a book.
In a haze, I had forgotten that was me! Wonderful Wildflowers of British Columbia. An identity outside of that inner world of mine.
And so I was taken home that evening. Under the blankets in the beam of a flashlight, I felt the fingers of a child’s hand trace the letters in my pages.
She murmered under her breath, feeling and voicing the shape of each new word. Words that I had skimmed over and thought unimportant proved to provide hours of entertainment and excitement. Pictures that seemed to show the mundane petals and stems of flowers were the muses for countless artworks and storytimes.
When it came time to return, the book couldn’t actually be returned – the pages had been too torn, too coloured on, too roughed up.
But that’s just another way to say it’s been loved.