First Love.

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”
~Victor Hugo

We’ve all experienced it: that rush of giddy joy, that hum of adrenaline zipping through our bloodstream, that feeling of being completely and unequivocally immersed in a relationship that sweeps us off our feet and changes our lives for the better. It’s a wonderful moment, one that warms the heart and makes reality twinkle with magic.

No, I’m not talking about a first kiss. Or a first “I love you.” Or the swell of all-encompassing happiness that must wrap around you when you realize that those firsts are only the beginning of so much more to come. No, this first love has nothing to do with butterflies, eternity, or fairytales come to life. It just has to do with fairytales. Or picture books. Or novels. Because this first love is the kind that comes from opening the pages of a book and getting lost in its pages.

So many of us have such special memories of the first time we were entranced by a story, the first time we realized that words can create a spark that lights a fire deep inside. I can so clearly remember storytime with my family as a child – Dad bringing up a snack (Ritz Bits with cheese triangles were my favorite!) and Mom reading a book that I chose from the shelf. When my sister was born, we expanded it to include two books, so we could each pick one. It’s been somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty years since we last did that, but the memories are still so vivid that it’s like it happened only yesterday. I love that – adore it – and truly cannot wait to start the same tradition with my own children one day.

And when those future children are old enough to read on their own? I hope they find as much joy and invigoration in those first books as I did with the first ones I fell in love with – the BOXCAR CHILDREN series. For me, that was when I learned what reading is all about: being swept into this world a writer has created, traveling along with the characters as their journeys unfold. It’s not witnessing a scene or listening in on a conversation. It’s seeing the words play out in front of you, feeling like you’re right there in the action. It’s being so involved in the story that you can’t imagine stopping for anything. Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden did that for me. I adored reading about their adventures, trying to solve their mysteries, and learning about the bond these four siblings shared. They drew me in, they made me believe, and yes, they even made my six-year-old self pretend I was part of the family, searching for clues and piecing them together right along with the others. Over the next few years, I’d read dozens of books in the series. They never got old. Each was a new adventure just waiting for me to dive in and fall in love.

There have been other series that did the same – Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins/High were among my favorites growing up – and, now, amazing books and authors whose words instantly transport me into the tale they tell. I’ve mentioned Emily Giffin and Allison Winn Scotch before, and there are others, too, who make me fall for their characters time and again. Perhaps Dr. Seuss says it best:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

This first love may not have put a diamond ring on my finger, but it promised me a different kind of forever – one filled with imagination, wonder, and a special kind of magic. And, to me, that makes it worthy of a place in the heart.

How about you? What was the first book you fell in love with as a child? What’s your favorite one today?


8 thoughts on “First Love.

  1. Oh, The Boxcar Children! I haven’t read the original in such a long time. I’ll have to add that one to my “borrow list.” I’ve taken to borrowing books from the school I work at, ones that I remember reading when I was little – I just finished Sarah, Plain and Tall. The Boxcar Children was such a captivating read, and I so loved the tight bond the siblings had. I think, if I recall correctly, Violet was my favorite.

    The first book I fell in love with as a child was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. I quickly went on the devour the rest of the series. I believe I was in third grade at the time. Up until I started Little House in the Big Woods, I loved stories and I certainly had a good imagination, but I struggled with reading chapter books (I think I just needed a bit more…time; I got better eventually, I just sort of learned slower than everyone else in my class), and the lack of confidence meant I picked few books up, especially ones that were a bit longer in length. But I got lost in Laura’s childhood world (I remember playing “pioneers” at recess for months after reading the first book) and I think from there my love of stories and words just grew and grew – like you said, it’s a specific kind of forever. I still have such a soft spot for those books.

    • That is such a great idea, to go back and re-read past favorites! It must make that childhood magic come alive all over again. I remember reading Sarah, Plain and Tall in school. I think we watched the movie, too.

      I’ve heard of – but never read – that series. The way you describe it makes it sound so lovely, though. It takes a special kind of book to grip a child so fully that they create the world in their reality, too (I totally remember pretending to be part of the Alden family!). Love, love, love that :-)

  2. Oh my gosh! I was thinking of the Boxcar Children series almost from the first sentence of this post! I so vividly remember my mom reading it to us. I was completely rapt. Those children were so ingenious!

    • I know, right? It was so fun to watch them cleverly solve each mystery and go along on the adventures. All these years later, I still remember my favorite in the series (Mystery Behind the Wall). So awesome that your mom read them to you. Maybe you can do the same with Sunshine one day!

  3. Oh wow, you really took me back with those names. LOL. I did love the Boxcar Children, but my 1st love was probably… Amelia Bedelia? Mrs. Piggle Wiggle? Maybe even the Velveteen Rabbit. Or Corduroy! Oh man, I loved that bear.

    Okay, maybe I wasn’t completely monogamous child. I had a lot of favorites, and I still do. But those were some of them. After that came the horse books — Black Beauty, Flicka, etc. Then the Mary Higgins Clark mysteries, and Nancy Drew.

    But I better stop now. But you get the point. :P

    Thanks for making me remember these great past loves of my life.

    • I had a bunch of the Amelia Bedelia books, too. Actually, I wonder if they’re still in a box somewhere. I have a real problem getting rid of childhood books. I KNOW that Corduroy’s still hanging around, because I made my parents read that one over and over (and over). It was always so wonderful when he finally got to leave the department store and have a home.

      See, so you had proof right from the beginning that you were going to be a writer. Seriously, I really believe that we have this intense, unstoppable need to read as much and as widely as possible. So awesome that it started for you at such a young age.

      Nancy Drew = fantastic. I think they were my SSR books for all of eighth grade. I couldn’t get enough!

      Thanks for making me remember some past loves, too! :-)

  4. Okay so before I start, I have been looking at my screen thinking something is wrong with my eyes for about 10 minutes now on your blog. I FINALLY just realized that snow is falling, and I am not crazy or seeing specks! PHEW! hahahaha.

    Now, onto more serious things – This entry brought tears to my eyes. One of the very first books I fell in love with was “My Great Aunt Arizona”. My Mom used to read it to me all the time and I was so entranced by it and in love with it! I felt so connected to “Aunt Arizona” and I wanted to know her so very desperately. That childrens book is one of two that are still on my bookshelf today. The other is “Love You Forever”. I can still hear my Mom’s voice reading me that book night after night after night, and it gives me chills every time I think about it.

    Today, I treasure the nights I put the kids to bed because there is nothing that I love more than snuggling up in bed and reading to them. Sometimes I could almost cry because it is just such a special time. I am so grateful that it was such a special time for me as a child, that I am able to experience it now and make it just as special of a time for the kids I love so much, and can’t wait for the day when I get to do the same with my own kids.

    Thanks for writing this. :)

    • I told you this yesterday, but the snow comment literally made me LOL. I enabled the feature a couple years ago and completely forgot that it starts up again every December. Promise, you’re most definitely not crazy or seeing specks ;-)

      As always, your comments are so sweet and insightful. I love that you and your mom shared a special book like that – and that you still have it today. There’s something really touching about that connection, isn’t there? It’s a bond that makes you feel so warm and fuzzy inside. Oh, and I remember “Love You Forever,” too! It’s such a beautiful story.

      It’s so special that you get to carry on the tradition with the kids you nanny. Your love for them is obvious – and vice versa – and how better to make lasting memories than by reading together? I know it’ll be something they always hold near and dear to their hearts, too!!

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