Do you remember your first crush? I do. His name was John and he moved to our town about third grade, and... Actually, I intended to write about books, but John just got in the way somehow. After all, I've fallen in love at first sight with a lot more books than I have men. My first crush's name was The Poky Little Puppy. I loved that puppy because he was round, curious, stubborn, and just a little bit bad. Not too bad. I didn't like to hear about really bad children -- or puppies. For instance, Peter Rabbit was much too scary for me. He purposely disobeyed his Mother, and that was very wrong indeed. Poky just enjoyed what he found in nature a little too much, and I understood that. He may have missed out on the chocolate pudding, but got the strawberry shortcake. My idea of a happy ending.
I third grade I fell head over heels for Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Well, I wasn't so crazy about Amy, another willful character, and spoiled. She obviously didn't deserve her sisters! Still, in the pages of Little Women I immediately acquired four sisters who argued, loved and had a lot of fun together. More fun than I was convinced I'd ever have. I lived in their world for a long time, writing plays and inserting myself in their adventures. I was even convinced they would love me more than Amy, because I would never be spoiled.
I imagine children having been surreptitiously reading under the covers since lights were invented. Being a disgustingly obedient child, I never did -- until someone handed me Christy by Catherine Marshall. At last I'd found the girl I was meant to be -- brave, adventurous, she was even a teacher like I planned to be. Her curiosity and courage led her into the strange life of a poor, superstitious Appalachian people. Staggered by their ignorance, Christy's struggles and triumphs became mine. I read until the last word of the last sentence. At 4 AM.
My family rarely drove the four hours to Denver. There was no reason to except for the fresh seafood restaurants. On one of these rare trips I bought a book titled Pride and Prejudice. Still in grade school, I'd never even heard of Jane Austin; it just appealed to me. From the first line "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man possessed of a good fortune must be in want of a wife", to Elizabeth and Darcy's happily forever after -- sans mother -- I couldn't stop reading. Light was fading and I read quickly. Soon the the city then suburb lights faded, leaving only the occasional lights of the Interstate. I read on desperately, holding my book open, my finger on the exact word I had just read, determined to get through as many lines as I could in the brief moments of light afforded me. Suddenly towns I'd ignored as useless became the most important things in my life. I knew in my heart that no town could ever bore me again, not if the inhabitants of that book could go with me.
They say there's no love like your first, and I believe it. I've fallen in love with lots of books since then, met characters who invaded my life and lived in my brain for a long time. We're also told that most first loves fade, that later we look back wondering what we saw in them in the first place. That may be true for some, but not me. I still return to my first loves. They captured me in my childhood and never loosened their grasp. I remember that poky puppy fondly, as do my children, and I look forward to soon introducing him to my grandchild. The others I would take to the proverbial desert island without question. They've been to college, around the US and to Japan with me. But the real power of a first crush is that it lives on in your mind forever, something that helped shape who you are and will always be a part of you.
--Read Well, Friend