With Thanks

As a child, I was very fortunate to have an older brother and sister willing to take me WAY across town to the public library. (Thanks, Jim Holmes and Maureen Kidd!) The wonderful librarians steered me first to the children’s section and, after I’d gone through those shelves, allowed me to read whatever I wanted as long as I showed them first. (How lucky was I???) I raced through biographies and travel guides and read about places I’d never heard of that inspired a love of geography and the library’s Map Room. I quickly fell in love with the glossy, sophisticated publications like Harper’s and the New Yorker as well as newspapers from around the world in languages I didn’t understand. (Thanks to the patient librarians who introduced me to the wonders of the world, and who unknowingly set me on a journey to travel the globe!)

Many of the stories I read referred to New York City as simply “the City.” When I was in the first grade, I had to make up a story about people in that particular city so, drawing upon what I’d read at the library, I referred to NYC as “the City” paying careful attention to capitalization, of course.

My teacher Miss Hess was convinced I stole the story “because first graders cannot possibly know things like that” and scored it an F. I cried all the way home. My mother, at a complete loss over how to deal with an hysterical 6-year-old, told me “just wait until your father comes home.” (Not your usual use of that phrase.)

My father went straight to the school with me in tow. Even though I had to wait on the steps outside the classroom, I clearly heard every word my father said in my defense. From that firestorm, a writer was born.

You should know our wonderful father made sure Santa put a dictionary under the Christmas tree for us and gave us a magnetic alphabet board so we could play with words. Despite his fiercely mathematical mind (genes I sadly did not inherit) our father was a literary aficionado who loved  to complete the New York Times crossword in ink. He was seriously good at the show Jeopardy, too.  He clearly understood this daughter of his was DIFFERENT (an understatement if you ask anyone who knew me then or now!) and knew I was prone to integrate what I read into whatever I was doing.  He’d read the story and it made perfect sense to him. Of course, my Dad loved to read the Horatio Hornblower series and would discuss those books and the Napoleon Wars with his kids, as long as we didn’t interrupt his reading time while eating supper after working late. (And yeah, I paid attention. Any wonder I followed his footsteps and joined the military?)

From my earliest days, my father was a champion of my writing. I carry his words in my heart and remember them often.

Thanks, Dad, for the gift of literature, and words, and the world beyond my doorstep.


3 thoughts on “With Thanks

  1. What a wonderful story, Susan. It sounds like you have a wonderful family. My father took me to the library when I was a child and instilled in me a love of reading and learning. With the easy availability of e-books these days, I have not looked for books in a library for some time until very recently. Or visited a real physical bookstore until very recently. There is something very special about being surrounded by physical books and being able to wander around and browse through them that cannot be duplicated by browsing online bookstores.

  2. Your dad was extraordinary. And your siblings as well, to take you WAY across town to the library. Those of us that got to go to the library for as far back as we can remember were lucky. My mom took us to the library each week and we got to check out one (or maybe 2 I forget) books. We had our own library cards at age 5. It was a big deal. And she let me read whatever I wanted, too, as I grew up, like you as long as I showed her first. I only remember her vetoing one book, and I don’t remember what that book was.

    When I was in grade school we got to submit paintings and/or drawings for a contest. Winners got to take an hour out of class once a week to work on art. I got to do that. My entry was a pastel. For the hour of art they made me do acrylic paint…which wasn’t my thing. I didn’t like the paint brush, wanted to go back to pastels..but they said no. My acrylic painting was flat and bad. The teacher had a meeting with my mother and accused me of cheating on the entry art piece, that I must have turned in something I didn’t do because my work going forward wasn’t as good. My mom stood up for me. But to today I’ve never tried acrylics again. And it still makes me sad.

Leave a Reply