I never wanted to read. If it had been my choice back when I was in Pre-K, I would have stayed mute and illiterate my entire life. I was never the easy child, that was my sister. I do not remember the exact title of the first book that I was able to read out of. I know that it was one of the simple ones. The type with the title that completely gives away what the book is about. Probably about animals reciting their respective noises, dinosaurs going to bed, or a the colors of different smiling objects. The particulars never mattered much before now, so the memory’s been lost. The point is: I don’t remember the title, but I remember the circumstance.
I was sitting on my mom’s bed, back when we lived in Amherst. Before we decided to start moving every 5 years or so, just so we never got too comfortable. My sister and I were sitting on either side of my mother, who was sandwiched between us to prevent any fights and holding the book. My mother is very Italian, and has always looked the part. Her eyes and hair are naturally dark, and tanning always came more naturally than sunburn. I took after her appearance for the most part, although she swears that my “dark beady eyes” came from my grandfather. My sister, on the other hand, tended towards the opposite. She’d always had light hazel eyes, and pale skin that could freckle and burn painfully. People used to assume that my mother was her nanny before I was born. My sister, overall, was the angel of the family at that age. She was a very sweet and easy baby. Never cried, but still aged to be social and intelligent. It’s one of the reasons that my parents decided to have another kid. I was the result of that optimism, and simultaneously the reason they stopped having kids. Reading was a night time ritual that was, frankly, lost on me. My mother would read a page. Then my sister, who had and always will be the smarter one. Then there would be an expectant look in my direction, and I would stare back and never say a word. I usually fell asleep pretty quickly and ignored the experience for the most part.
Overall, the actual reading experience wasn’t much. My mother had turned to me and asked me to read a page. I typically protested, because I didn’t like looking at the fuzzy black masses. However, this book had neater, separated words that were large enough to be near-understandable to what had been taught in class earlier that day. So, I decided it was time to just go for it. I repeated the words slowly and tried to use the skills I had been learning in speech therapy. My mother was patient and made sure I got through the sentence without my sister interrupting me. She praised me with an excited compliment, hugging my side. I was tired by that point, but I supposed reading couldn’t be that bad. It was like the first time I ducked my head underwater. I didn’t like the anticipation before, but the experience was fine. It had actually helped ease some of the tension that came with childhood confusion. So I kept reading, to ease the tension. I had never like the feeling of being confused, and everything is confusing before basic knowledge is gained. After the first sentence, things became clearer.