Enter the awkward, painful preteen years. I fell out of a tree, and killed three butterflies, and got separated from the bosom of Mother Nature. I found sanctuary in the written word. A love for reading, nurtured and encouraged by my hyper-literate parents, became an unquenchable thirst for great books. I entered the make-believe worlds of Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Richard Adams, and Noel Streatfield.
I surrendered myself completely to being a gawky book nerd. I was nearsighted, bucktoothed, and cowlick-tressed. I wore ugly sweaters and thick-ribbed brown corduroy trousers. I recall extreme teasing which today would be called bullying, and stories saved me. I saw the unmistakable imprints of Mr. Tumnus’ cloven hooves in the snow. Scratches in the paint of our front door were made by Gandalf. I was Lucy, pushing to the back of the camphor-scented wardrobe; I was Bilbo on a pony in the forest, hungry midmorning for bread and cheese.
I read everything in our house that was written for children, then I stole a copy of Judy Blume’s Wifey from my mother’s bookshelves. Wifey is about a housewife having an affair, and the book exposed me to the prurient possibilities of print. Caught reading Wifey, I promised not to lend it to my friends, then promptly (but creatively!) broke my promise by reading the steamy sections out loud to a friend, in our backyard. My mother overheard, and I was punished. Corporeally.