Sunday, November 14, 2010

Flying and Stumbling

Recently, I was tagged in a meme on Facebook called “15 Scribblers.”

Here were the rules:

Don't take too long to think about it. List fifteen authors (poets included) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.

Well, I thought, what the heck, I can do that.

But after listing like six authors, I thought, “What the hell do I read besides blogs these days?” It turns out, not much.

Actually, it’s not that I don’t read books—it’s just that I rarely read the same author twice (with only a few exceptions). So to name my “favorite authors” seems like a bit of a stretch when I’ve only read one book by most of my “favorite” authors. It would probably be easier to just name my favorite books.

So then I started wondering…what was my favorite book was when I was a kid? And what has my favorite book been as an adult (so far)? And what do my “favorites” reveal about who I am?

My childhood choice for favorite book was surprisingly easy to think of. To be sure, I had many favorites—the Little House books and the Anne of Green Gables books, to name just a few. But my absolute favorite book as a kid—and one that I still own and even still re-read on occasion—is a book called “No Flying in the House” by Betty Brock. (I think it’s one of my sister Sheri’s favorite childhood books, too.)

Why was it my favorite? Well, first of all, what a great title, right? “No Flying in the House.” Doesn’t that title just get your childhood imagination going?

And then you have a sweet blonde-haired little girl named Annabel as your main character, a tiny, intelligent talking dog named Gloria that accompanies her wherever she goes and takes care of her, a kindly old woman who lives by herself and allows Annabel and Gloria to stay with her, and a miniature gold cat toy with emerald eyes who comes to life on occasion and tells Annabel that she’s really a fairy and can fly…and you have all the ingredients for a magical story.

When I was eight years old, I was enthralled with this book. Heck, I still am! The mystery of Annabel and where she came from and why she has a talking dog and why a mean-spirited toy cat keeps coming to life and telling her she’s a fairy…well, it’s just such a fun, magical story. And when I was little, I couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than being able to fly around the house. What fun!

So I guess what my childhood favorite book reveals about me is that I love a great story—especially one involving mystery and magic. Even now, I love to hear stories about amazing “coincidences”—which I like to think of as life’s little miracles. I still like to believe that magic exists and that magical moments can happen in everyday life.

As for my favorite book as an adult, I think it has to be the book “Stumbling Toward Enlightenment” by Geri Larkin. I love this book and have read it at least a half a dozen times. In this book, the author tells the delightful story of her growth from a stressed out, harried, unhappy businesswoman with an extremely annoying eye twitch that won’t go away…to a calm, happy, kind Buddhist meditator…but not without many “stumbles” along the way. What I love about her story is that she’s certainly not perfect—and she struggles with the exact same emotions and ego that we all do—but she persists, in spite of her very human imperfections, to try to be a kinder, calmer, happier person. And I very much admire that.

I also love her story because it’s so very funny at times—so funny that I’ve laughed aloud at several points in the book. My favorite story that she tells is about a time when she is invited on a cross-country ski weekend with some friends in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When she is packing for the trip, she thinks to herself that since she doesn’t know these people very well, she probably should steer clear of any topic involving Buddhism or religion or meditation. What she doesn’t think of is packing her swimsuit. (Who thinks about packing a swimsuit when you’re heading for a ski trip?)

So later that night, her friends ask her to join them in the hot tub of the hotel they’re staying at. Instead of just admitting that she forgot to bring her swimsuit, she goes to the front desk of the hotel to ask if they have any for sale. Well, all they have are these plastic-coated paper bathing suits—so she thinks what the heck, I’ll try one. OK…you might be starting to get the picture. First of all, with the paper swimsuit on, she says she looks like “a Chinese lantern in human form.” Then, once she sits down in the hot tub and starts gossiping with her friends, wouldn’t you know it? The suit starts deteriorating. So when she stands up later to get up out of the hot tub, one friend pulls her down and whispers “Your butt’s gone.” Sure enough, she has no more backside to her swimsuit. It’s completely gone. So she makes everyone look away from her while she backs out of the hot tub and runs back to her hotel room.

The lesson of this hilarious experience? She could have asked one of her friends for help instead of trying to figure it out on her own, but her ego and her desire to be liked by her friends gave her a very embarrassing moment instead. Of course, it also gave her a very funny story to tell, but the point is, sometimes our ego gets in the way of our better judgment.

So I guess my choice for my favorite book as an adult also reveals that I love a good story—especially one told with lots of humor—and especially one where someone becomes a better person—albeit with some struggles along the way. This is the same reason that I love the shows “Supernanny” and “The Dog Whisperer”—because no matter how much the parents (or dog owners) struggle along the way, there is always a happy ending…or should I say “a happy work in progress”?

That is essentially my view of life—it’s a happy work in progress, and even though we sometimes struggle, there are still so many beautiful—and magical—moments of life that keep us going.


Lisa said...

What a great idea. I have such a hard time picking favorites of anything.

I've never read either book, but they sound great. And I love it that you still read your favorite childhood book sometimes.

Mom said...

I've always read a lot. When I was a kid I read all the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew books. My favorite book was the Secret Garden. I loved the friendship, the mystery and the happy ending. I still love stories of friendship, mystery and happy endings. Recent favorites have been "The Help," and "Pillars of the Earth."

Barb said...

I'll have to check that book out. Sounds wonderful. My favorite grown up book is "Like Water For Chocolate." It's pretty much a fairy tale for adults. LOVE IT!