Growing up, I was in a combined classroom which consisted of two grades. The teacher would teach a lesson to my class, and then while we were doing our work, go over to the other class to teach their lesson. This was not an educational fad, but a necessity. Our parochial school was very small and the class sizes were not big enough to have one teacher per grade level.
So while the other class was having their lesson, I would finish my work (and sometimes get into trouble by talking to a classmate) and pull a book out of my desk.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read.
Sometimes sticking my nose in a book became a way to hide from the rest of my life.
Eighth grade was tough. My family had just moved to the Chicago suburbs the year before. Seventh grade hadn’t been too bad; I made friends and felt pretty good about the school I went too. It was another parochial school–I was in with the same room with the same classmates all day long.
Eighth grade was not kind. Some of friends I had made the year before graduated and a couple of my friends moved away. A group of “friends” started to ignore me. The other girls in the class already had their group established, and while I wasn’t ignored, I wasn’t exactly welcomed.
Every day after school, I ran home and pounded the stairs up to my room to hide in a book.
The characters in a book didn’t ignore me. They didn’t tease me or tell me I wore the wrong clothes or didn’t wear enough make-up.
Fortunately, that feeling of being left out didn’t last. High school was good and college was even better. I still loved to read, but I didn’t need to hide myself in a book as much as I did during that one year.
And then, along came another year when I really needed a place to hide.
I needed to hide from the poison dripping into my veins; from the old lady across the room attached to IVs; from the cold that seeped into my bones in the middle of summer. From the anxious looks my parents gave me when they thought I wasn’t looking.
And so I opened my book.
The words blurred in front of my eyes. I couldn’t bring the print into focus. I took off my glasses, used for distance, and wondering if they needed a good cleaning. I looked at my book again, and the page swam before me. My glasses were not smeared. The chemotherapy dripping into my blood was making me too sick to read.
I closed my book and closed my eyes. Nowhere left to hide.