Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Piece of Childhood

The first book that I ever read, besides of course short and silly favorites like Dr.Seuss, was called The Christmas Dog. I remember that my mother read it to me once, and then I battled my way through it (I was only 5 or 6, and the book is 64 pages long) until I had read it all by myself. I was so proud that I didn't need help. It was like all the mysteries and spells of the English language were broken in the reading of that one book. Suddenly, I could read anything and everything (and believe me, I did). The Christmas Dog remained my favorite for a few years, and remains in my thoughts to this day. My enjoyment of the book even went beyond reading it; I reenacted it so many times as a child, that I still have the entire story-line memorized!

Somehow or other, my copy of this book was lost somewhere around my fourth or fifth grade years. I felt the loss of the book acutely - it was like losing the very dear friend who gave me the world. After all, it was this book that gave me that last necessary key to open the world of reading. I searched in vain, but I never found my book (partly owing to the fact that I could not remember the name of the author, and partly because other books exist with the same title). Over the many years that passed, I never forgot my book either.

Repeatedly, as an adult, I made efforts to find this book once again. I tried libraries, bookstores, online; no one had heard of this book. Last week, I found myself unable to get this book out of my mind. Various things kept reminding me: the snow, which features prominently in the book, hearing someone say the name of one of the characters, even just seeing my own dog. I knew that I just had to locate that very special book.

So, using some of the excellent research tools at my disposal, I began to hunt down my book. An hour later, I located a record of it: The Christmas Dog by Jan M. Robinson, written in 1969, now out of print. I searched and searched through used books online until finally, I found a copy of my book for sale. Yesterday, it arrived. I didn't have time to read it or look at it very much then, so I put it on the table to admire later. Today, as I sat down to breakfast, I pulled out my book and opened it to glance through at the still-familiar illustrations I have not seen in over fifteen years. The inside cover gave me a tremendous shock:

Written in black ink are my initials. I don't know for certain if this is the same copy I once owned, but it is possible. Even if it isn't, it's still a remarkable coincidence. This book and I were meant to be together.

No comments:

"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"