I was one of those kids, who didn’t do very well in school. I was very slow to learn to read. I learned the mechanics of reading not too much behind my classmates, but that slight slowness labeled me as backward. If someone stood over me and said, “Read.” I could call out the words, but once they went away I wouldn’t keep reading. As far as the school was concerned I could read, but not in my mother’s eyes. She took me to an optometrist, who had no training in diagnosing learning disabilities, but who declared I must be dyslexic, after listening to my mother’s reports of my difficulties in school. He then went on to tell mother that glasses would not help. I was sixteen before I was put into the glasses, which I should have been wearing from childhood.
When I got into the fifth grade my teacher, who didn’t believe in learning disorders, noticed that my eyes were not tracking as I tried to read, causing me to read things over again quite often. She gave me an index card to run down the column of text to keep my eyes focused on the right place. With that one little hack, reading became more interesting and more enjoyable for me.
About the time my teacher fixed my reading, it was jelly canning season. This was to have a great influence on my life. Sure I love blackberry jelly, but it was a side event that meant so much. Before the blackberries were ready, mother had been reading me a book, which was a little ahead of my age group. I think the name of the book was The Stained Glass House, but I am not sure. I have tried to find the book since then, but with no luck. There have been too many books written the past few years with the same or similar names, for anything to surface in Google Search.
But I digress. The book was about a young teen, who moved into a new town. She and her family moved into a model home. That home followed the general lines of all the others in the subdivision, but since it was a model home, and the builders wanted to make it very attractive, they installed a beautiful stained glass window. The story was very mundane, with the normal story of the girl, who isn’t accepted into the teen social order until she becomes the girl friend of the most popular guy in school. I was only 10 years old then, so the story fascinated me. Mother had gotten to the part of the story where it seemed like nothing was working out for the girl, when she had to stop and tend to the jelly making. First thing she knew I was off with the book reading it myself. I have often wondered if the whole thing hadn’t been planned by her. She could be crafty that way.
After that I went with her to the library. That building became what a library should look and smell like for me. The building started out as a post office. I knew it as THE library, but now it is The Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art. Each time we would leave the library carrying as many books as they would let us check out at once. I wonder if she were able to take more books because she had me in tow? Probably! I can still remember the first book I checked out and read for myself. It was Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery, Hallowe’en Party. Mother had read mysteries to me before, but there was something special in reading it myself.
It wasn’t long before I was reading every Agatha Christie book I could find in the library. Eventually I would start buying Christie’s books in a set from Bantam Books, but the series was ended before they had published them all. It is wonderful that Kindle now has them. The first Miss Marple book I read was The Murder at the Vicarage. I have been in love with Miss Marple ever since. I was overjoyed at the idea that characters would show up over in over in books, as I worked my way through the mysteries. While Miss Marple never gave me a taste for small town life, as anyone who knew me in Canton, Texas could tell you, Hercule Poirot gave me a taste for far off places and travel. I was so young when I read Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun, and Murder on the Orient Express, Christie’s vivid writing left a lasting impression. Maybe that is why I am writing this in the Andes Mountains.
After mother introduced me to mysteries of the finest kind, she started me in on SciFi, beginning with A Fall of Moondust, by Arthur C. Clarke. Years later when I watched the Poseidon Adventure, I couldn’t help but draw some parallels. I remember staying up all night reading story after story in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, my favorite story in the bunch was There Will Come Soft Rains. Now that we are all getting into the Internet of Things, it makes you think. Once mother had introduced me to the SciFi section of the library, I was off.
I soon found the books of Robert A. Heinlein. The first one I remember reading was The Puppet Masters, You could tell that the writers had this novel in mind when they wrote the last episode of season one of Star Trek in 1967. As a kid, who always felt like they never fitted in, I really felt a great sympathy for the protagonist in Stranger in a Strange Land. I was fascinated with the idea advanced in Have Space Suit—Will Travel, of a common everyday man who ends up representing and defending mankind in an interstellar court. (if you click on the blue text for Have Space Suit – Will Travel, above it will take you to the Kindle version of the book. The link below will take to a rather costly physical copy.)
All that summer after mother introduced me to the library, I read one book after another. When I ran out of books I would take out one of the volumes of the World Book and read through them. I tried to read them from front to back like a novel, but I have to admit that I skipped over lot of articles that were too deep for me. I think it might have been that summer that daddy started calling me, “A fount of useless information.” Okay, so he wasn’t always nice, but I liked him and thought he was funny. My parents were so glad to see that I was finally doing what they considered reading that they never made me stop reading to do chores. They also didn’t mind that I stayed up all night reading and slept through most of the day. That worked out well, since we had no AC in the sweltering Georgia summer. It was best to be awake in the cool night.