A two bedroom shanty with a bathroom no bigger than a closet, four kids – three of them rambunctious boys – all crammed inside, nowhere to go and no money even if there was…For a nine-year-old girl, life couldn’t be more mundane. Everyday, I woke up to the same colorless routine. As the eldest child, I was expected to help care for my brothers, two of them twins. I cooked; I cleaned and I helped my parents run the house-hold so they could work jobs on two different shifts, trying to make ends come somewhere close to meeting in the middle every month. I grew up fast and books were my only escape.
Every day, as soon as my little brothers were put down for their naps, I would grab one of my tattered, yard-sale novels and sneak to the crab apple tree at the edge of our yard. There, among its scraggly branches, I would travel to foreign lands, fight evil witches, live a hundred different lives, and I always saved the day. My books, worn and falling apart, more tape than pages, became my dearest friends. The small collection was a varied as the colors of a sunset. Fantasies, mysteries, horror, and classics lived together, sharing a small cardboard box in the dark recesses under my bed. To me, they were the whole world.
Most of my books were acquired through a favorite aunt. She haunted yard sales like a ghost haunts spooky, old houses and was a shrewd negotiator. Watching her haggle for a bargain was as entertaining as any drama on television. In the end, most people were left frazzled, looking very much like the cheap, worn-out items they were hocking, and my aunt would saunter away with a bag full of goodies.
One day, she stopped by the house to gift me with a few new “friends” from her weekly haul. I tore into the paper bag, eager to see the covers, to touch the yellowed pages, and smell the musty scent of neglect. To this day that smell still brings back wonderful memories of a time when a twenty-five cent paperback was better than fancy dolls and shiny bikes.
I can’t remember any of the titles of the books I received that hot summer day, save one. The cover jumped out at me, begging to be held. There were four children, a magical doorway, and a castle in the background. I picked it up with a shaky hand and turned to the first page. In purple ink, someone had scrawled the message, “Magic lies within these pages…” It certainly did.
I’ve been to Narnia many times since then. I read that copy of C.S Lewis’, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe so many times the cover eventually crumbled, falling away piece by piece like so many memories of my childhood. When my son was old enough, it was one of the first books I purchased for him. I did the same for my daughter, making sure in each copy to include the message that seemed to encompass my entire youth, one that I have carried with me and still hold dear…Magic Lies Within These Pages.
Thanks Nickie for sharing your story with us...
A little bit about Nickie:
Nicole Storey lives in Georgia with her husband, two amazing kids, and a variety of pets. She loves ‘weird’ things (as her extended family so eloquently puts it) – the supernatural, paranormal books, and her favorite holiday, Halloween! She is the author of the juvenile fantasy series, Grimsley Hollow. Her new book, Blind Sight, was released in July and is the first book in her new YA paranormal series titled, The Celedon Circle. Her books can be found in e-book and paperback at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo, and Smashwords.