Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Raised Up

I am a writer. I have been writing as long as I can remember. Books, as previously discussed, saved my life. It was reading and escaping into stories that kept me going as a child. Stories of the orphan train, which later inspired me to try out for the lead in the play, which I was offered and indeed played out, stories about the boxcar children and other orphans, that made me laugh and made me cry. I began writing and remember winning an elementary school short story contest in first grade. I actually got in trouble in fifth grade for writing. Some kids talked too much in class (ok I was guilty of that as well), some passed notes, but I wrote too much. Instead of doing my math problems or science I was writing stories. Short, long, journaling, and poetry. My notebooks were filled to the brim with writing.

I love writing. It is a great outlet for when you have had bad days. It is a way to concrete memories into the cement of history. Writing for thousands of years has been the one preservation of human kind. Writing on caves, on scrolls, in books and now the electronic age. The written word has progressed far and wide, but it has never been silenced. Journals, like that of Anne Franks, have outlived the person, although her spirit through her words, as long as read, will never die.

Perhaps the reason I like to write is because at the end of the day it is something that is mine, something that cannot be taken away from me. Some people say that I am an ok writer. I think my writing ability came from my love of reading.

A professor of mine told me that I must have been raised right recently in class. I didn’t correct him. How do I explain that I raised myself? My first several foster homes were at best negligent at worst abusive. Then a group home. Then a home where I was an indentured servant raising other peoples children.

I began to think about things. Who did raise me? Where did my values come from? Some from the variety of churches and religious organizations I belonged to. But more, I believe from the books I read.

No one understands why I call the moose at the zoo Morris or why I ask him if he wants gumdrops. All too often I recall the books of my childhood when others have long since forgotten them.

I read books that had value to them. Meaning. Morals. The stories I read didn’t depict orphans doing drugs, killing, raping or committing crimes. They were stories about the heart and soul, about family, about overcoming obstacles. Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny, from the “Boxcar Children” kept me company while they lived in a boxcar in the forest. The stories gave me hope when the children are rescued by their loving grandfather who gives them a good home. The family values that are taught in “the Little House on the Prairie”, teaching hard work and good old fun. Anne Frank had an unbreakable spirit during a broken time of terror.

Growing up with Margret in “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” It was my first taste of the brilliance that is Judy Blume, but far from my last. “A Wrinkle In Time” saved me from a screaming foster mother as I buried my head under the blankets and read myself into foreign lands and adventure. An escape from my life as I longed to be Meg. The beauty of “The Secret Garden” inspired me to read it time and time again.

I never quite understood why I loved my copy of “Where the Sidewalk Ends” that I bought for a dime at a garage sale when I was eight. But it was one of the most worn books in my collection. My Amelia Bedelia collection made me giggle on the way to visit my parents in prison. My love for animals inspired me to read “The Incredible Journey” before the movie was made. I learned about civil rights movements and the holocaust is books like “The Devils Arithmetic”, “Number of the Stars”, “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry”, and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

I remember reading “The Giver” by Lois Lowry in one night. As a child I had finished the entire Babysitters Club series. I read “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”, “Catherine, Called Birdy”, “The Things They Carried”, “The Golden Compass”, before I ever started Junior High. My junior high years were filled with the classics thanks to a teacher who guided me in the right direction. “Little Women”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Jane Eyre”, “Through the Looking Glass”, “Great Expectations”, “The Scarlet Letter”, “The Call of the Wild”, “Black Beauty” the list goes on and on. I read every single one of Shakespeare’s collections. Then I started on poets.

I checked out twenty-five books for the road trip from Illinois to Florida one summer, I was about twelve. I read them all before we arrived in Florida, and all were teen or adult books. I read seven of the “Left Behind” series in three days Christmas of 2000.

Reading was my salvation. All the Friday nights I was home alone, I had company in my books. When I was being screamed at from behind the door, or shaking wondering when I would get to eat again, when I was fighting to not cry myself to sleep, I would reach for a book to comfort me.

I learned about life from the books I read. How to treat other people with kindness, love and compassion. How to forgive. I learned that families are important when I didn’t have a family. I learned about love when there was no love in my life. I learned about people who had struggled and became larger than life. I learned about hope, lighting dark times and victory when none was in sight. I learned how important words are.

Right now the words in books have once again become my friends, my hope, and my escape from the daily pain and depression I am feeling. I hate my life but I don't hate theirs. So I am back to escaping into books. Once again books are what has become my savior.

Maybe, maybe I like to write because someday I hope my words can touch someone the way the authors of my childhood touched me.

And when I go to bed tonight I will snuggle with my very own twenty plus year old version of “The Velveteen Rabbit.”

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