Even as a child, I loved the coziness and comfort of bedtime. In addition to the many books she read us, my mom made up her own funny bedtime stories. To this day, one very special story brings tears to my eyes, filling me with so much love and gratitude for my mother who, even now, is the person I want when I can’t sleep. The story is about a little boy eating a candy bar with peanuts when one peanut comes alive and shouts, “Don’t eat me, don’t eat me!” That always made us giggle and demand of our mother, “Tell us again, tell us again!”
All the laughing and hugging tired us out, and sleep quickly followed.
I was always conscious of our family’s financial limitations, and it was obvious to me that most of my friends had more than I did. We had bag lunches and were rarely given money for hot lunches; we got new store-brand clothes, but only at the start of the school year and again at Easter, and the items were always on sale. But we had one thing in abundance—we had love.
As the oldest, I had a lot of responsibilities—including setting an example for my three siblings. Getting A-grades in school was of the utmost importance in our home. Luckily, I was a natural-born nerd, so I had no problem with this directive. I feared my father’s wrath if I ever tried drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, staying out past curfew, or hanging out with the “bad kids.” I hung out with the brainy crowd; there was no chance I would be invited into the “bad” club.
But I did insist on one thing, and that was freedom. I absolutely, PASSIONATELY hated confinement! I downright abhorred the feeling that someone or something was holding me back or limiting me in any way. My mom says even before I could walk, I managed to hoist myself over my crib bars and plop to the floor to “escape.” Whenever I could taste and feel freedom, I reached for it every chance I got.
The main way I escaped feeling confined was through reading, which I did for hours at a time. I read book after book and wrote to almost every author to tell them what I thought. Some of them even wrote back. What anticipation I felt waiting for the mail every day, thrilled beyond belief whenever I received another handwritten response! I meticulously saved these letters in a three-ring binder, and I read them over and over, wondering what it might be like to write a book one day.