Friday, May 6, 2016

Where Am I Going and Why Am I in this Handbasket

"And you may ask yourself
Well . .  how did I get here?"
Talking Heads
It should come as no surprise to you that I have a story about how I ended up here. I'm an Air Force brat. Dad was in the military long enough ago that we moved often. Post assignments were generally for two years rather than the four or more they are now. That meant that either you were moving or the kids you'd made friends with were moving. Nothing was permanent. You learned early how to not get attached to place or to people because you were a perpetual tourist, flitting in for a short bit before being blown out on the breeze of Uncle Sam's whim. It had benefits - we saw amazing sights and had one of kind experiences.
But a military kids live always leaving or being left.
Kids handle that in one of two ways - they either learn to make friends with anyone and everyone very quickly. Most do this by becoming joiners. My sister went this route. On the other path, the military brat learns not to count on other people. She becomes self-contained. Has a tendency to sit on the sidelines, hanging back, both intellectually and emotionally isolated. I went that route. Less disappointment, sure, but lonely. Not that I *wasn't* that kid that no one wanted on their kickball team. Sports were not I and there wasn't a word for 'geek' in those days. Well. The word existed, it just didn't mean what it does today. Yes. I am that old. Shut up.
Books were my friends. They were reliable. They were friendly and I didn't have to be anything more than I was - a sickly kid who nearly got shipped to Germany for major surgery because the base doctors didn't think I'd survive Iceland. Horse books got me through that. Swampfire. A Pony Called Lightning. I still measured my age in single digits and I was on a serious Western kick. Roy Rogers was my hero. And maybe The Lone Ranger. So try to be generous while judging 9 year old me.
Books kept me company when my cousins and my sister ditched me alone at my grandparents' house. My Aunt Betty brought me a box of tattered paper backs, every last one of them written by Andre Norton. Ordeal in Otherwhere was the very first of hers I read. I promptly read every last one of the books in that box and went to ask for more and even began collecting Andre Norton books, myself. Aunt Betty and I had a friendly competition going for years over who had more. Got a note from her several years ago after her house burned down. It said, "You have more Andre Norton books than I do, now."
The thing I don't know how to convey is that books have been unfailing friends. Through good times, through times I wasn't certain I could survive, a book in my hands saw me through often with renewed determination and with new courage. Isn't that what friends are supposed to do?
How did I get here? Stories are still my nearest and dearest friends. I need them to survive. And if anything I write can be someone else's friend, I'll maybe have paid the kindness forward.

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