Jottings: The Gift of Summer
As a kid growing up in the tropics of India, summer brought scorching heat and unrelenting humidity, a bright profusion of heavenly scented flowers and the opportunity to gorge on countless varieties of succulent mangoes. Every year I looked forward to languidly lounging like a lizard on my family's tiny apartment balcony with a pile of books at my side — to be transported to real and imaginary locales around the world. Traveling in real life wasn't an option; besides, who'd want to travel with hordes of sweaty tourists anyway?
My love affair with books began at an early age with books by Enid Blyton, the U.K. author. Summers were when my love affair intensified. Characters from "The Famous Five," "The Secret Seven," Malory Towers and St. Clare books were my companions on that balcony. The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew books soon followed. Dreams of solving mysteries and having midnight feasts at boarding school kept my young mind engrossed. I imagined myself growing up to be a detective solving mysteries and saving the world, but bemoaned the fact that I didn't attend boarding school and was missing out on scrumptious midnight feasts! My family struggled to make ends meet and kids who attended boarding school came from wealthier families.
The years have flown by and my deep and lasting relationship with books has endured into adulthood. The fun mysteries and boarding schools of my childhood have now given way to books set in various countries from around the globe — books that transport me to real and imaginary worlds and offer rich insights into diverse cultures, people and perspectives.
It was a cold wet day in mid-December 2015 when I received a package in the mail. I looked for a return address and saw it was from a friend of mine who had never mailed me anything before. Utterly curious, I tore open the envelope. To my surprise the envelope held an old Enid Blyton book! I laughed delightedly and danced around the room. It had been years since I last encountered Ms. Blyton and I was thrilled that she had unexpectedly re-entered my life. I reverently ran my fingers along the cover, back and spine, and flipped the pages. I held it close and inhaled the smell of print and paper.
"Ah, what a wonderful friend you are," I thought. My friend is Australian. Many years ago, we bonded over our shared love of Enid Blyton books that were available in the countries where we grew up, despite being an ocean apart. When she returned to visit Australia that past summer, she ran across this Enid Blyton book in a small used bookstore. She remembered our conversation and knew she had to buy it for me. When I reached out to thank her for thinking of me, she said: "I thought it would bring a smile to your face."
This summer I'm eager to dive into my pile of "to-be-read" books, just like I did when I was a kid. I look forward to page traveling to lands far and near. And decades later, my pile of books will once again include the words of Enid Blyton — via a gift my friend carried across the globe for me. I'll leaf through that precious book on a warm summer afternoon in Lake Oswego while sitting on my deck (so different from the tiny balcony of my youth) with my feet up sipping on an ice-cold ginger beer. I know once I open up its pages I'll be transported back to my childhood in the tropics where my summer love affair first bloomed.
Lilisa Hall is a member of the Jottings Group at The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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