BY SIRI BARDARSON
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
March 4, 2014
Both “Read Across America” (otherwise known as “Dr. Seuss Day”) and “World Book Day” are being celebrated this week. Long live the book!
Reading is the socially acceptable way to withdraw. I was a confirmed reader by the age of ten and for a never-enough girl like myself, there were always more books. Over-indulging on bazillions of words like chocolate chips… Into paragraphs like cookies… Four dozen thousand words later, I’d ingested them all.
When I was eight or ten, I tried to write my first book. The story began with the smell of bacon and the sound of a screen door slamming. These were comforting images that I typed very carefully onto erasable onionskin stationary with a Smith Corona typewriter on the dining room table.
The onionskin paper was thin and could barely hold the idea of bacon, like carrying a large rock in tissue paper and expecting it not to rip. The screen door seemed like a harmless thing and I struggled to get it right but I couldn’t know that beneath the simple words roiled my intense desire to escape my giant family. It was a mob scene and we had the bacon rule.
My mom only cooked bacon on Sundays and then it was just one piece for her and the five of us girls and two pieces for our dad.
I erased the onionskin until there were dark blurs and rips in the fine paper that held my six sentences and then I gave up. It was a terrible discovery—the fact that reading and writing are so different.
Reading felt great and writing felt horrible.
At the beginning of the summer, my sisters and I walked down our steep hill to the library and slowly dawdled back up after enrolling in the summer reading program. I remember carrying fourteen novels back up the huge hill and zipping through them in that first week of summer. I diligently filled in the list with the titles and authors on the special paper the library gave us that smelled like a Weekly Reader.
Then the Pacific Northwest summer turned on and the great escape wasn’t reading but being outside.
The switch from reading indoors to playing outside seemed to coincide with getting our new summer tennis shoes. My mom would take us to the Wigwam store in the big station wagon to buy our shoes and on the drive home she would issue a warning.
“Do not ride the wagon down the hill! If you drag your feet when you ride the wagon down the hill and ruin your tennis shoes, it will be too bad. These are the only tennis shoes you get this summer!”
We heard the contradiction in the first two sentences and avoided making eye contact with her as she glanced at us in the rear view mirror.
Riding the wagon down the hill was not allowed. It was a very dangerous hill down a neighborhood road, about a 100-yard-long freefall before it took a harrowing ninety-degree left turn at a yellow painted concrete barricade. To the right was an empty dirt lot and relative safety.
We had broken the rule the previous summer and we knew that the only way to slow down enough and careen right into the dirt lot was for all three kids in the wagon to simultaneously brake with their feet down on the road and lean to the right when the wagon driver yelled.
Riding the wagon down the hill was a break for freedom. And the price of freedom was ruining your tennis shoes.
When it was your turn to ride the wagon down the hill, you would drag your feet and grind the rubber soul into a jagged slant that made you walk on the outside of your feet from that moment on. This would hurry up the process of poking your big toe through a hole on the top of the shoe because you were walking funny, and then the rubber sole would pull away from the material at the sides of the shoe. And then your shoelaces would break.
It is impossible to lace up your laces with the fuzzy ends no matter how many times you lick them. And so the tennis shoes are laced up through only the first two holes because the lace is VERY short. And then, you just start sliding your foot into the shoe instead of lacing it up, because you can. And then you slide it on halfway and crush the heel part down because you are in a hurry. So now the new tennis shoes are just slip-ons or flip-flops, which are worthless if you play outside a lot. So you just go barefoot for the rest of the summer, which is the truest sign of personal freedom.
And your mother yells at you and grounds you. And you have nothing else to do but curl up with your book in your bare feet.
Summer is really happening now and the screen door slams. And if it is Sunday, there is the smell of bacon.
Siri Bardarson is a cellist and vocalist who performs with the best duo in the universe, Siri and Steve. She writes a lot and is ecstatically happy when she makes stuff! You can visit Siri at www.siribardarson.com or https://www.facebook.com/siri.bardarson/
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