The kindness of books and how they accompany us

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The kindness of books and how they accompany us

The steps on the corner were worn into paintless, shallow scoops, wood-grain clearly visible, from all the feet that had climbed up over the 56 years of visitors before my three-year old self arrived at the old Fairbanks Library. A building filled with books! Books that you could take home and keep for a whole week, so that you could look at the words and the pictures and tuck them into your memory.

The earliest inhabitants of books that I remember were watercolor yellow ducks and cartoon dachsunds and a line-drawn bear cub that came nose to nose with a little girl. As I got older I started with the “A” authors at one end of the children’s room and just read everything on the shelves. That’s how I discovered that there were collections of fairy tales. I’m pausing after writing that sentence, inhaling, unsure of how to convey the wonder of stumbling upon book after book filled with brave heroines (and heros) who were rewarded for their kindness and formed relationships with animals and gates and strange, frightening monsters. Fairy tales offered me the possibility of a world that made deep sense, and where relationships were remembered, and mattered.

My father was terrified by how far I went into the world of books and would yell at me, “Life is not a fairy tale!” And in some sense he was right. My sweet adopted son died of alcoholism. My best friend died of breast cancer. Life ends brutally, without rectification, restitution or resolution. We live in a country which was built on genocide and enslavement and white supremacy.

But in another sense, he was wrong. Our love matters. When we are kind, it makes a difference. Relationships last, and what we give, comes back to us. Small objects carry the magic of memory, and accompany us when people we love have died. The actions we take matter, and the words we speak are important. They are part of something larger, and they can give and inspire hope. We keep each other alive with our language.

And books! Books are our fairy godmothers. They stay in the same place where we can always find them, they enfold us, and they make up for the ways that our mothers were taken from us by trauma and loneliness. This place of accompaniment was where I imagined sitting as I wrote my book “Your Resonant Self.” I have the imagination of this book reaching out to people who have never been seen with generosity and warmth, who have never known that they were worth something, who were never able to afford therapy, to people who have been too busy taking care of others to take care of themselves, to enfold them and hold them in pages and in words.

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