Rereading Childhood – How going back to favorite books brings comfort in rough times.

Recent surgery on my retina forced me to spend several weeks laying on my right side so my eye could heal properly.  I was prepared for the recovery and I’d set up several stations in our house.  I placed a low table for my laptop, Kindle and phone, baskets of books and magazines and a power strip at every spot to charge my electronic devices.  But three days into my recovery, I reached electronic overload. I had read through the magazines, skimmed through the books and the electronic reading was causing strain on my vision.  I needed a break. The only problem was – I love to read and just watching television or staring out the window was not going to do it.

In fact, I was feeling a little sorry for myself.  The eye surgery was a piece of cake compared to the restrictions of the recovery period.  A gas bubble in my operated eye was holding the newly fixed retina in place.  While it healed I had to keep it bathed in drops, bandaged for several weeks and keep my head down on the right side.  There was to be no driving, no work, no strenuous activity for 6 to 8 weeks.  It all sounds doable until you realize you don’t like being restricted to hours of lying still and being a hostage in your own home.

The problem was solved by happenstance.  In that, as I was heading to the kitchen for something to eat, I accidentally bumped into the bookcase.  With one eye patched I had a hard time with depth perception and sometimes came up short against objects.  Hitting the bookcase caused a stack of books to slide out onto the floor.  Although I wasn’t allowed to bend over, I could slowly lower myself to the floor and slide the books back together.  But as I went to put them back on the shelf I felt a row of books jammed behind them.  I reached back and out came an old copy of a Nancy Drew mystery!  I couldn’t believe it.  What was that doing back there?  I reached back and brought out several small stacks of books.  It was a treasure trove from my adolescence!

Whatever reason I’d been heading to the kitchen was now forgotten as I pored over the titles of  my childhood.  There was the dusty set of Little House books, The Great Brain series, the Cathy books and even, some teen novels based on The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch!  I had spent hours of my adolescence and teen years reading these series.  I was kind of a bookworm and in those pre-internet days, I’d spent many a lazy afternoon curled up with a good book.  I thought I had given those away a long time ago, or perhaps thought they’d been lost in a move.  But here they were reappearing at a time when I needed them.

My favorite childhood books often had strong reliable characters, with good morals and exciting adventures – think Laura Ingalls and Nancy Drew.  The heroine might get into a scrape or two but she always rescued herself and came out on top in the end.  Maybe I could look at my recovery like that.  I was going through a bit of a rough spot but I was strong and I had been through rough patches in the past and gotten through those.   Maybe I could channel those childhood heroines and act as if my recovery was just a short chapter and by the end I too, would be better and looking forward to my next adventure.

It didn’t hurt to try.  I placed the books in the different baskets throughout the house and whenever I felt a little overwhelmed with my slow healing or had watched enough election coverage on the news or followed enough trending stories on social media  – I would escape for an hour with one of the books from the basket.  It helped.  I found myself getting lost in my childhood books all over again and when I’d close the book after the last chapter I’d feel a sense of accomplishment for the hero or heroine.  In addition, I felt a little better about my circumstances myself.  With each book finished I’d find myself a little more grateful for the simple fact that I was healing, that I could read – even with only one good eye and one blurry one.

I have a few more weeks to go in the recovery process until I can return to a more normal  existence, return to driving and return to work.  I’ve decided not to put the books away when I’m done but instead, keep them out.  The process of going back and rereading them has helped me on the road to recovery.  Kind of like long-ago friends.  I think I’ll keep them around.

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