Sunday, April 7, 2013

Coming Home to Friends

I am of that rapidly vanishing breed of people  who believe that books are among man's best friends. They tell you of stories, of foreign lands and wondrous sights, and are great companions in your solitude.  When I was a small kid growing up in this  speck of a city  in a speck of an island in a third world country blessed with eternal summer but cursed with eternal tyrants wearing disposable masks, I found a little book in the house my father had purchased that was left behind by a former occupant. It contained pictures of little mice and a snippet of a theme that turned out to be the Waltz from the Sleeping Beauty Ballet. That book opened my eyes to the world of beauty. I loved that book, Naturally I started reading more serious stuff. The ones that thrilled me most were travel books: titles like "Iberia" by James Michener (about Spain), "Aku-Aku" by Thor Heyerdahl (Easter island), and more National Geographic magazines than you can shake a pencil at. Now I am back home, back where I started dreaming of going to see castles in Spain, the statues of Easter Island and the dome of St. Peter's. The same books that I read and that inspired me are still there, a bit dusty and mostly unread.  I pick them up and try to tell them, as one tries to tell friends, that I've gone to  all the places they told me about and that maybe they can tell me what to do now. I think of all the children around me, so distracted and enmeshed by digital culture, and feel sad that maybe they won't ever feel the same feeling I have now of coming full circle: from reading entire books to going to the places they described to coming home. It is somewhat disheartening to realize  that none of my grandkids seems to have read any book of any sort, aside from their textbooks. The times, they are a-changin, and all I can do is to try  to convince my little ones that books -- the real ones, the tangible ones with pages that you flip and that turn yellow with age-- and not just PSP's or iPhones, can be their best friends. If I can get them to read on a Kindle, I will take it.

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