Reading for beginners.

Reading came as a surprise to me. I never thought I’d love it so much in the beginning. We weren’t a reading family anyway. The papers were the only reading material I remember growing up. I only read the comics then. Actual books were always stored elsewhere, shelved or kept for safe-keeping. My parent’s tastes also limited our magazine subscriptions. Dad needed his Vogue before and later became a loyal follower of Vanity Fair. He was busy with fashion photography at the time and I guess he grew to love what images could surface from all over. My mother on the other hand was a Martha Stewart person, though personally, I didn’t think she needed Martha. She had her own style and knew enough about little luxuries to be bothered by an almost-Stepford-wife vibe.
October, 1978
Only my two older sisters read books in front of me. They loved romance novels of the Lisa Kleypas, et al. kind and I think it was the sight of an all too macho, tan, frog-resembling man holding a woman dressed in rags, that made me shy away from their revered selection. They would read each others books and share but for awhile I remember them arguing about those too. I’m just glad I was too young to know or be interested in what it meant when a man “took” a woman. Fortunately, we lived with our grandparents then and they did read more than just the papers. Lolo was a fan of National Geographic and his was the best subscription ever! During those times when Baguio was not as popular yet and visitors were only limited to people who actually lived there or had friends who did, it was easy to make believe that I was in a different planet altogether! And I was, I really was! Lolo kept the huge, cardboard, balikbayan boxes for me and during the summer, he’d position it somewhere outside, in the shade. I’d be placed in the box to play and I recall sneaking in copies of the magazine. I loved the pictures and the discovery of all things wonderful in the world! Imagine my delight upon opening a copy of the magazine and seeing for the first time the insides of a rainforest! It’s almost as if I was there with the guy who wrote the piece!

I could read at that age but I needed more than just a dictionary to understand what the articles in the magazine were trying to say. They were, after all, talking about physics and space and dinosaurs and Egypt! All fascinating ideas that were too big for my little head. It started there, I think. In the discovery of the planet I inhabited and of the possible existence of worlds beyond, I knew I had to get my hands on more material.

When we moved to Manila, I hid under my sister’s bed hoping to be left alone in the quiet of Baguio, with no one but my grandparents to keep me warm at night. It didn’t happen as I planned and after an exhausting morning of tears, I fell asleep and woke up in Manila. June just swept by and three days into the month, I was in a new school with a whole slew of new people to get to know. How frightening for a little girl to be placed in a school that seemed to big at the time. I kept to myself for a while and that’s when I discovered the joy of going to the library. The books were all lined up and ready for the picking! Imagine my delight. I tasted everything I could handle and when I felt like I bit off more than I could chew, I tried others and kept coming back.

That’s how it started and it continued on until today. There are more highlights in the story but I can’t get myself to articulate them all at once. All this tweaking is bringing back so many memories and important books that deserve to be mentioned. But, as always, we have to start first, then progress into the what-happened-next’s and the and-then-what’s. Funny, all I really wanted to write about was how this article I read made me realize that having a choice concerning what you read when growing up matters. While reading though, I stumbled upon a whole new set of things to say: when I began to read and why…who were my Mrs. Mcneill’s, why I want to become like her and teach one of these days.

Wonderful. We should all read. Oh, the New York Times says I’m old enough (harhar) to start a book club. Anyone interested? 🙂


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