I remember when reading was my life. School was my job, and that's what paid the bills (or my family dues). I had friends, social engagements, hobbies with them (and computer games, preferably without the friends). But my real calling in life was to read books.
One beautiful memory I have is arriving home from school on an October day. I think I was wearing the dusty-rose cardigan with pearl snaps, made of lightweight sweatshirt material, that was a hand-me-down from a family friend, like most of the clothes I was still wearing in sixth grade. I wore that cardigan over my second-ever Old Navy possession—a thin, cream, long-sleeved t-shirt with a diamond pattern knit into it—and on my feet, I think, were the lovely suede clogs Finn destroyed the following year in young puppyhood. The Picture of Fall Fashion, Emma and I would say in silly voices.

It was one of the glory days of fall, and I remember coming home from school to a brand-new book, Sabriel, and reading it on my swing in the backyard. Bringing it inside to the kitchen nook and reading it with one hand, another hand in a carton of goldfish. Probably reading it by the light of my closet when I was supposed to be asleep.

Even better is remembering reading The Golden Compass the first time. Fifth grade, early spring. Maybe it was spring break. I had just started reading it when my favorite aunt came to visit. My room, rarely clean, was picture perfect for her with the trundle bed set up along my desk, under the smaller window, and my nightstand between our two beds. The sheets on both beds were from her, I'm sure, just like the Laura Ashley curtains, and the ivy-painted nightstand. The new comforter was from my grandparents. I loved sharing my room with her. I read my book before bed, and so did she, and then when she turned the lights out I stashed it under my pillow. In the morning I pulled it right out again and started reading.

I tried that again recently, when I was finishing up Between the Woods and the Water. I kept the book under my pillow, and when I woke up in the morning, instead of rolling back over and feigning sleep until I slipped back into it, I sat up and put on my glasses. I started reading, and the day started. When I think about it, it's very strange to me how few books I read these days. Books were everything. Books were the reason I wanted to write. They're the reason I write however well I do, more than any teacher, though I had many good teachers.

The week I put finishing Between the Woods and the Water on my to-do list, I read before bed. I read when I woke up. I bought something so I could sit and read at Starbucks between Work 1 and Work 2. I wasted less time. I enjoyed holding paper and putting my feet up and un-clenching my teeth.

It's sort of sad to have to put "read [book]" on your to-do list, but that's what I'm doing now. Trying to actually prioritize my so-called priorities. I'm going to check out some Paul Theroux this weekend and see if I like his travel/train writing as much as I do Terry Pindell's. The former is more well-known than the latter, but who's to say.

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