The Gifts of Life
Is there anything more revealing than to get totally captured by an exciting book? Or is there anything as magical as creating a story out of your own mind? Well, to a lot of people there may be, but to me those things are what make life so beautiful. When I read and write, I allow myself to focus on me, and only me. With the pencil in my hand, I create my thoughts and weep my tears. With an open book, the door to the present is shut, and I can catch every word with my eyes while I taste their meaning in my mouth and feel the excitement in my heart.
I love the way books smell. When I open up a book and let my fingers turn over the pages in a deep breath, the book talks to me. Sometimes I smell love, sometimes hatred. Sometimes I feel passion, sometimes fear. A book is such a beautiful and vulnerable thing. What it contains is magic.
My parents brought books into my life before I even walked. Every night, in the damped light of the lamp, they whispered stories in my ears until I finally walked into the land of dreams. But these are not my own memories, they are my parents. However, one of my own first memories is also about reading. In fact, it is so strong that I can still smell my blanket under my nose and feel the beating of my mother’s heart next to me while we’re sitting in that little grey sofa of ours. How I loved that sofa. It was so fascinating to me how a piece of wood could be so comfortable. I was about six years old and every afternoon my mother took me, my brother, and our friends to the most fantastic places by reading to us. Those few minutes, with no screaming and crying kids in our house, but just a silence full of imagination, gave us all strength to keep exploring life and developing as individuals. And since then I have been using the gift of reading and writing for that exact reason. In this world where expectations and commitments are constantly spinning around us, we must find times to relax. We need to find innocent factors that have no right or wrong, just joy. Otherwise we will sooner or later be thrown from the carousel of life and get hurt by hitting the human ground.
My mother taught me how to find that joy. When she read to me, I could never take my eyes from her mouth. I followed the movements of her lips and caught their every sound. When she darkened her voice to be the frightening wolf or when she laughed the words of the evil queen, I saw the characters in my mind and felt them in my whole body. Thus, my mother made me addicted to journeys beyond reality; she gave me a whole new world. Ever since the first time I knew how to put letters in my own mouth, I keep going back to that place. I know, it is absolutely crazy, and a nineteen-year-old woman reading out loud to herself, is not the prettiest sight. But I can’t help it; I desperately need the world where my own problems and regrets don’t exist. If my life only had one purpose, it would be to find that spiritual peace.
“Do you know of the book Harry Potter?” That question, stated in a pink flowered letter from my best friend, Jessica, a couple of years ago changed my life forever. In the twinkling of an eye, my whole fantasy world belonged to Harry Potter. The little brown-haired boy with round glasses and a remarkable scar on his forehead became my weapon against everything that hurts. That’s why I am crying inside knowing that there is only one book left to fill the needs in my life. I say this at the risk of being a pathetic fool, but when it comes to the miracles of J. K Rowling, I have no fears. In the middle of the most important conversation with my best friend, I can find myself smiling about another of Ron Weasley’s funny jokes. The total joy I feel when I turn to the first page in a Harry Potter book equals the same grief I feel when I read the last.
According to my parents, I was a very talkative little girl. At just a few years old, I spoke with no reservations and seemed desperate to tell people what I thought about everything. I was one of those more or less annoying kids who just love to ask anyone about absolutely nothing. If you know what children I am talking about, you might understand how thankful my parents were when I was introduced to, and fascinated by, writing. In my first journal in this class, I wrote about my first memory of writing. How my teachers in kindergarten taught us about words and sentences and the possibilities they imply. But I don’t think I mentioned the sprawling feeling of happiness that writing gave me. When I finally learned how to use a pencil I started to put my thoughts on blank pages, instead of just losing them into the air. In a drawer, in a little white bureau back home in Sweden, my mother has kept all of my stories through my living years. I assume that to most people they all look like random collections of words, but to me they were a way to express myself in my growth.
Nowadays, that drawer is a sacred place which I almost never return to. Yet, a few months ago, I did. Almost immediately my eyes fell on a little pink paper, decorated with hearts. When I picked it up and started to read, I felt a rush of trilling nostalgia through my veins, as all the memories came back to me. I was in the sixth grade and all the children in my class had written short stories to read out loud. We were divided in groups of five, and I remember the tingling in my stomach when I realized the cutest boy was in my group. I was so happy about my story and I couldn’t wait to tell him and the others about my princes and princesses and about that little white dog that bit everybody’s feet. My heart was beating like crazy while I tried to stay still in my chair, holding the little pink paper in my hand. Finally it was my turn and I began to paint every phrase and every motion with my voice. I was just about to start laughing about the little dog terrorizing another princess when I suddenly was brought back to reality. The beautiful princess crying in despair was gone and I was facing my whole class. I don’t know for how long they had all been watching me, but I do know that the color of my face turned into the reddest tomato. They must all have thought I was mad; nevertheless, my appearance gave the kids a new game. Every break, in many years, children pretended they were small crazy dogs biting each other’s feet.
Despite that childhood trial, I have never stopped writing. When I feel completely lost, I just devote myself to the ink of a pen a free every little sad and happy particle of my body out of my soul. When I start to write I can finally figure out what is going on inside my head. Does this make any sense? I know it does to my father. He is a journalist; naturally he has an inclination for writing. My grandmother has told me many times how my father used to communicate to his family through notes. In fact, he still does. I honestly don’t think I have ever seen nor heard my father truly express himself, but when he writes he creates the most beautiful, moving and sometimes hilarious things. I find my father as quite a mystery that never stops to amaze me; he is my source of inspiration in life. As he has given me pretty much all of his thousands of allergies, my father has also given me the appreciation of recalling thoughts and feelings with written words.
Words have formed me as a person. Without the ability of reading and writing I wonder what my life would have been like. Better? Maybe. Worse? Well...that I will never know, but when I put my own life in perspective to the lives of those billions of children who have no literacy whatsoever, I feel sad. What I have read and written in my life are memories to keep in my heart. They are joys to be reminded of, forever. So what do those people have to get strength from? Those people who wake up every morning not knowing if they will survive the day or not.
When college is over and the working life is the next step, we will face the fact that reading and writing are very important. Our literacy capability is going to be a huge part of how successful we will become. Therefore I am very thankful to my parents open minds and genes which made me love everything that has to do with thinking, writing and reading.
They are the gifts of life.