As a little girl, I discovered that there were plenty of sports that I was not good at, plenty of hobbies that I would quickly lose interest in and plenty of friends who would stand me up for play dates at the last minute. (To the 5-year-old classmates guilty of this, my college self has recently forgiven you.)
Lucky for me, my mother taught me that bedtime stories could fix just about any problem that my childhood world threw at me. I was never alone in my problems, whether they be kindergarten drama or boy issues, because Junie B. Jones was conveniently going through the exact same thing. I’ve accumulated over a decade of schooling and life experiences since the last time I regularly read children’s books. Even now, however, my most important life lessons can be found in the pages of books neatly tucked away in a corner of my basement, waiting for the day when I can introduce my own children to my imaginary friends.
Thank you, Stellaluna, for teaching me that just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not real, and to Frog and Toad for proving that very different people can actually be very good for each other. Thank you Winn Dixie and Charlotte’s Web, for teaching me that best friends come in unexpected forms. I promise I will never eat pork and that I will go to great lengths to save spiders from the wrath of squeamish roommates and merciless toddlers.
Thank you to <em?The Giving Tree, who converted me into a tree hugger at an age when I had no idea what it meant to be a tree hugger. You taught me that there will be people who are content giving everything that they have to others and expecting nothing in return. Recognize these people, keep them in your life, and give them everything that you have in return.
Thank you to Winnie the Pooh, for teaching me how to be good, sweet and silly, and to be a Tigger even when the world is doing everything it can to turn you into an Eeyore. I will always think of you and Christopher Robin when I put honey in my tea.
Thank you to Jess and Leslie from Bridge to Terabithia, for teaching me that childhood friends are some of the best people that a 20-year-old girl can have in her life, because they will remind you of elementary school dreams and the imaginary worlds that allowed you to be queens and mothers and monsters and mermaids. I may have since learned that these worlds are impossible, but remnants of 6-year-old make believe counteracts some of the cynicism I’ve acquired over the years.
As for The Giver, you will always terrify me. There must be some sort of lesson that I took away from you, but I will forever be creeped out by your entire premise. My apologies, Lois Lowry.
I am now an English major, so the precarious stack of books on my desk is riddled with titles including The Canterbury Tales, Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina and Othello Don’t get me wrong; Shakespeare and Jane Austen have taught me a lot, but they will never rival the characters of my childhood favorites, spiders and wild things who I considered my friends. As fascinated as I am by the Ancient Greece of Homer’s epics and Dickens’ 19th century London, I know that fifty years from now I will be able to finds homes in Terabithia and Neverland. And when the world becomes just a little too tame for me, there will always be a place where the wild things are to welcome me home.
So thank you Matilda, for teaching me that smart, independent and a little bit strange are the best things that a little girl can be. And most of all, thank you to my mom for never letting me go to bed without saying good night to the moon.