Lessons Rereading Books from my Childhood

On a whim, I started re-reading some of the books I remembered from my childhood. I just finished Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.

I honestly didn't remember much about the book. I remembered that Maniac was an orphan and homeless, and that he ran...a lot, and I remember the character Mars Bar, but only for his name. That's about it. I remembered almost nothing about the plot. After all these years, what I remember most, is not what happened in the book, but how the book made me feel. I remember sadness and triumph, and that feeling of magic and fulfillment at the last page, when you think, "Yes, this is how the story ends," and yet it doesn't really end, because those feelings stay with you.

It was a joy rereading it as an adult. I could see what fascinated me as a child and also better appreciate and grasp its many redeeming qualities, like the magical realism, the themes of separation and belonging, of race and family, and the subtle but perfect narration.

I was a slow reader as a kid. It wasn't till second grade that my parents and teachers realized I needed glasses because in elementary school they only tested for near-sightedness, and I'm far-sighted. I had trouble looking at a page right in front of me. I would have to close one eye, and use my finger to read the words, because I also had tracking problems (my eyes would skip to the next line before I was finished reading the first.) I remember being frustrated in school, and anxious whenever we had to read something to ourselves in class. I almost never could finish the paragraph or passage within the time the teacher gave us to read it. The pressure of having to read something within a time constraint made me anxious and also embarrassed. I learned how to fake it. I would read the comprehension questions first and then go back and skim through the paragraph just to find the answer. I had to do this, otherwise there was no way I would finish. When we had to read a paragraph in class and then answer questions out loud, I just prayed the teacher wouldn't call on me, as I continued to try and read without her noticing.

But I liked reading for myself. I liked curling up in my room and delving into a story at my own pace. Eventually, armed with my new glasses, I was able to like reading in school too, or at least be able to do it without the anxiety, because the more I read, the faster I got.

All of this is to say, that at seven years old as I squinted to see the chalkboard, I would have never imagined that I would get a degree in English and be working on writing my own books. It's good to look back and see how far we've come. We can't change the past, but we can appreciate it in a new way, just like rereading a childhood book as an adult. It gives me inspiration too,  knowing that even now when I feel stuck or frustrated, I just might not be able to see where I will be ten or twenty years down the road. One day at a time.