The Book Twice Traveled

Missy leaned in slightly as Harry Potter counted down the seconds to his 11th birthday.

“Maybe he’d wake Dudley up just to annoy him,” I read from the side of her mattress. “Three … two … one … BOOM!”

At the sudden noise, she jumped in bed. Then Missy giggled and I laughed. Her eyes came alive as she twitched with eagerness and delight. Something good was coming, she knew it.

She ought to. After all, we’d been down this road before.

Regular readers will remember that I read every night to Missy, my wife’s developmentally disabled aunt. Attentive readers will remember that we made the journey through all seven Harry Potter books about two years ago. Since then, our travels have taken us to Tom Sawyer and Percy Jackson, to Peter Pan and Homer Price, to secret gardens and yellow brick roads. Every path led to a new horizon, new places to go and faces to meet.

It’s been a delight, our special time of magic and discovery. But … well … some kinds of magic are too good to only experience once.

Missy certainly thinks so.

Granted, Missy is a woman of strong habits. The familiar doesn’t seem to get old for her. She can spend an hour taking apart and putting together the same puzzle, or carefully arranging photographs in a Ziploc bag, then taking them out to do it all again.

Even so, when I offered her the chance to pick out our next book – on a whim, showing a mix of old titles and new —  she pointed at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with a certain … forcefulness. Energy. Even glee.

I quickly understood. After all, I’m a veteran of the road twice traveled myself.

I’ve had people wonder at that sometimes. “How can you read a book so many times? Don’t you get tired of it?” To me, the sentence might as well be in Martian. After all, do you get tired of a friend who visits more than once?

And that’s what certain books are to me. Old friends. Not arranged like bookends, as Simon and Garfunkel put it, but between them, always ready for another call.

It’s not easy to explain to someone who doesn’t share the passion. So many things are wrapped up in it.

There’s the memories that a certain passage will evoke. When I go back through The Hobbit and reach the death of Thorin Oakenshield, the reference to the Dwarf’s rent armor always evokes Dad’s voice, explaining to an 8-year-old boy that “rent” meant the mail was torn or damaged.

There’s the anticipation that comes with a second trip, the ability to watch for details you missed the first time or realize just how early a seed was planted. Walking through Murder on the Orient Express or The Time Traveler’s Wife, I can see the pieces of plot assemble themselves, waiting for their moment on stage. Resuming the Harry Potter books, I can see Hagrid arrive on the motorcycle of Sirius Black and know who Sirius is and what heartache is about to be set in motion.

And of course, there’s the tales themselves. If I revisit a story, it’s because it’s worth spending time with. Often, it means a particular scene can still make me laugh, or wince, or start to tear up. That it can come alive like it’s happening for the first time again. Maybe this time the message will reach Romeo. Maybe this time, Sam won’t accuse Gollum. And will the Stone Table still break at the Lion’s coming?

That’s powerful.

It takes something special to reach that point, to have a story become a treasured memory. And like the best memories, re-examining them brings together who you were and who you are into a single, timeless moment.

And if it leads to a giggle in the night with a loved one  – well, that’s a bonus.

Even if it does lead to a Harry situation.

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One Response to The Book Twice Traveled

  1. Katherin Engelhard says:

    Oh, I missed it.

    I tried to leave a comment before you posted your next column. I find, however, the wind has blown me clear to Florida.

    And it’s plenty windy on the beach here in Destin. Makes for great waves. Boogie waves. Boogie board waves. Ride those waves. That is if you can bear (not bare) the cold water. Bearrrrrrr……

    Kids are tough. They don’t mind. They can handle cold very well it seems. They like the wind. It makes for good waves. Me–makes for good tangles in my hair.

    Wish I could post a picture here I took in Texas just outside Amarillo last Sunday. The wind really blows out there, I tell you. And pictures of us as little kids and all, why, our hair is always sticking straight off the side of our heads, the wind a-blowing through it. We never realized it. Just the norm. We thought everybody everywhere had hair like that.

    But in Amarillo I photographed a Texas State Flag, the Lonestar Flag, being flown under the United States of America Flag, Ol’ Glory, and they were a-waving strong and proudly and straight out, a-flapping and a-flailing and were both a-tattered and torn from windy days and windy nights, all four seasons, the wind a-blowing and a-rippng and a-waving them on. It was an interesting sight.

    Reminds me of the hardships our forefathers suffered to purchase our freedom. The blood they shed, the battering and bruising and wearying and trying, battered, worn and wounded yet enduring ever so boldly and courageously so we could fly those flags so freely and proudly today.

    And well, those West Texas winds, they blew me clear to Florida here, and I find myself on a little get-away, a time for pause, (those are needed now and then–that’s okay–and why not pause at the beach? with your sister and brother-in-law and their three kids, and four of your own, traveling with only 1/3 of your family–that is odd and different), a retreat so to speak, reflection, introspection, spending time with my “last 4 kids” before they get too old to pick up and travel with me, just letting go and blowing with the wind and not being so tied down as to enjoy getting to let go and go where the wind blows. Takes you places.

    But reading your last column, about repeating and revisiting stories and all, The Book Twice Traveled, well I thought to tell you, I bought tickets to the Cher concert coming up at the Pepsi Center in May.

    I remember when the first Sonny and Cher show premiered. We were so anxiously awaiting it!!! We’d rinse our hair in downy so it would be shiny, silky and beautiful like Cher’s. Oh, those were the days!

    Shiny, silky, beautiful and tangled hair and all messed up, the wind all a-blowing it straight out the side of our heads for pictures: ) Oh, life in the West Texas wind.

    But I better get back out to the beach with everybody before they get to wondering where the wind blew me now and send a search party out for me.

    But before I leave–another thought just crossed through my mind, like blew through, you know? And it’s like sometimes you hear things in the wind. Murmurings, chantings, hintings, quartets, seventets, as far as Washington to Denver, even, and I’m going to go sit on the beach and let the sea breezes–they are breezes now at noon today, and the waves are not so lofty, though–but I will let the breezes help me decide what to say next, to some folks I’ve had in mind to respond to some columns of theirs–whisperings I seem to pick up in the wind when I read their columns. I’ve enjoyed reading their columns and and have intended to reply, just haven’t. I think it might be time. Because the wind is blowing. The mighty mighty wind. The wings of the wind. It carries voices far and near, as far as Washington to Denver even, maybe?

    Katherin

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