To say I had a dysfunctional childhood would be putting it mildly. Purely to save myself, I spent a great deal of time dissociating from my daily reality. In fact, I really can’t recall much from ages 11 through 13.
I can say that I watched Mr. Rogers until an embarrassing age. He was the calm center of my storm, the one voice of reason and compassion. Sadly, his show wasn’t on 24 hours a day, so the rest of my waking life I dove headlong into books.
I carried library books with me wherever I went. I even brought them to school, in spite of the fact that I also had to lug around about 30 pounds of textbooks. Without a book, I felt vulnerable.
You can hide behind a book. You can lose yourself in one. Books don’t judge you. They don’t shout. They’re safe and reliable. They never let you down or put you down. And they can transport you to better worlds.
My favorite books growing up were the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. I must have read each one about 20 times. Recently, in an effort to get in touch with my inner child, I started reading them again.
It’s interesting to revisit the planet of Pern from an adult perspective. I can certainly see why these books would appeal to a troubled child. Pern was an amazing place. Yes, there were bad people there, there were trials and tribulations, but justice always prevailed in the end. The good people pulled together. They took care of each other. Bonds were strong. Work was hard but it was honest, and you could take pride in your skills and talents.
McCaffrey also created her own vocabulary, which delighted me. There was a coffee-like substance which was called klah. Klaaaaaaaaah… That’s perfect. What would be better to wake you up on a cold morning? And crablike creatures were called spiderclaws. Of course.
And when a dragon or a fire lizard loved you, you were loved and protected for life. There was no question. You could count on it.
On the back of a dragon, you could fly away from all your troubles. Pern probably saved my sanity. I bet the Harry Potter books do the same thing for kids today. There’s something to be said for getting lost in a book.