I can still remember the moment when, all of a sudden, written letters turned into words — and once I started reading, I never stopped. From Little Golden Books to big, best-selling novels, books have always been a constant for me — and the heroines within, constant company.
It’s the “girls” I grew up with who opened the door to me in terms of becoming a writer — characters who, without too much effort, became companions of mine for hundreds of pages and long after their stories were told.
When Nancy Drew took off in her little roadster to solve her newest mystery, I called shotgun. When nurse Cherry Ames made her way through a series of medical melodramas, my pulse raced. And when Laura Ingalls lived her adventures on the prairie, I was one more pioneer in that little house.
It didn’t stop there. Reading about Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, I became the fifth March sister. When Harriet spied her way through her New York City neighborhood, notebook and pencil in hand, I went along to dust for clues. My first trip to Paris was with Madeline and her eleven little friends. When Eloise turned the Plaza into her personal play space, I was there to order room service.
Don’t forget the romance. As Jane Eyre slowly fell in love with the brooding, mysterious Mr. Rochester, so did I. And the times Elizabeth Bennet told Mr. Darcy a thing or two, I was right there to say, “You go, girl!”
There were tough moments, too. Atticus taught Scout the meaning of compassion and decency, and it was a lesson I never forgot. Anne Frank wrote that “in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart,” and her words broke my heart. Into six million pieces.
These days, you won’t find me without a book nearby. Our bookcases are filled, with volumes stacked vertically, horizontally, diagonally. And while I continue to discover characters who touch my heart, tickle my funny bone, and take me to places I have never been, it’s the “girls” I grew up with who taught me to find my own story.
And to tell it with passion.
ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman