It might come as a surprise to most people, but the first time I fell in love was with books. Yes, the binders, the covers and even the smell of an old or new book. It still drives me crazy. My affair, as I see it came in four stages all corresponding with what was going on in my life at the time.
I would attribute the first time beginning in my tweens when my parents divorced. Being an African child, both then and now, when parents divorced you had no say or business in what was going on. They divorced and that was it. You just have to move on… well I did and I moved on into the fantasy world of books and their not so real characters’. One of my first stories was Little Women. I was there with them every step of the way living and reliving their lives. It helped and it took me to a completely different world than the one I was in. Strangely enough, or maybe not, I found myself reading stories about little girls and their lives with divorced parents. Oh I loved them the most I would always imagine myself as them spending great summers and holidays with one or the other parent. At this stage we were not allowed any contact with my mother.
The second phase came when my father started dating other women. Every month or so there seemed to be a new mummy. I was most intrigued about these romances in a way that I started reading Mills and Boons to try and understand were my father was coming from. What was this love he had for so many women? It took me further to Danielle Steel and the likes. I needed to understand. Because again no one was saying anything to us, and without a woman figure I tried to learn this stuff by myself. I delved more and more into the novels.
The third phase of my affair came when I wanted to escape from my father, his women and my siblings. All teenagers do go through this phase, but I would find myself in the public library reading anything I could get my hands on. It seemed to me that the more knowledge I had, and then I would be invincible to the abuse and shouting going on in the house. And my father had a new woman and we had to move to South Africa. I read books from Einstein to biographies of people like Marilyn Monroe. Oh it was awesome. In this phase we were not really allowed to bring novels into the house unless it was school related. So every night I would whisper these stories to my younger sisters at night. It made me feel like a protector and dream maker for them.
The fourth and probably most important phase came when my father died of AIDS. The world did not seem to make sense at all. I delved into dark books. From Anne Rice to Stephen King. They were comforting and again I could believe things in my own head that mattered. I was angry.
Today I read what I can when I can and my children and my husband sometimes have to compete when it comes to my love of the written word. But I have also traded the Stephen King’s for Jamie Oliver. That makes me laugh; really I am more at peace.
But the love affair will continue though till my dying day. The smell. The binders and the feel of a good book still make my heart pound in my ears. It’s still always ‘love at first feel’.