Book Girl

A Long Ago Memory

A bank of colorful cubbies lines the eastern wall and over there, on the western wall, you’ll see the kitchen, music center, and oversized dress up box. Behind me on the northern wall you’ll find the reading shelves, chock full of worn classics.

I’m sitting on a small chair with a dozen and a half of my kindergarten classmates sitting “Indian fashion” around me while Miss Robinson steps out for a minute. Whether it’s for a restroom break or a ciggy break, I’ll never know, but Miss Robinson often leaves me in charge, even though I’m only five.

When I look up over the heads of my classmates on the mat in front of me, my heart brims with happiness. Whether or not I have the words to express it at the time, I know it: I am so fortunate to be right here, on this day, in this place. Through long, paned windows bordering the southern wall of the classroom, weak spring sunlight spills over the shelves of our milk carton sunflower starts. Have I had a vision? An epiphany? All I know is I am utterly content.

It’s then that I pick up the new and enticing Look Out for Pirates by Iris Vinton, a slim, aquamarine hardback, and begin to read to the class. Vinton’s book has all the elements: a shipwreck, trunks of gold, and a dashing captain to save the day. I use varied voices and at times read at a fever pitch. When the story is done, I’m exhilarated. I’ve visited a new land and experienced adventures foreign and exciting.

Looking back, that day at the Christian Avenue School in Stony Brook, N.Y. circa 1962 is probably the moment I first decided to become a kindergarten teacher. It wasn’t until age 44 that I entered the classroom full time as a teacher, but instead of kindergarten, I landed in high school teaching ever boundary-breaking sophomores. Just like in kindergarten, though, I read aloud to the class every Friday, swapping Look Out for Pirates for John Knowles’s A Separate Peace or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. And students sat in rapt attention listening to the written word.

It’s no surprise that the world of books has been my refuge since I was five. Much has changed over my lifetime, but books have been a constant. Still I read long into every night, visiting places I’ve only dreamed of, carried away on the sea of words.