booksmart

If I had written a screenplay at nine, the heroine would have been locked in a book store for a week with Corey Haim, and a truck full of string cheese, strawberry froot roll ups and pillows. 

Any book store, in particular Black Bond Books in Semiahmoo Mall, was my crack den back then. Every copy of Sweet Valley High, Babysitter's Club, Trixie Belden, and the one Degrassi book where Spike had sex-I had them, and if that meant some creative begging and tears in the YA aisle, so be it. My poor Mom - even a quick grocery trip meant me all wet doe-eyed, clutching the new Archie comic and swooning into near death if I couldn't put it on the conveyor belt. 

Oh my God, remember book fairs? Those travelling orgies of fodder for elementary school nerds that would set up shop in the library for a day or two, then pack up and take their richly scented wares onwards. Forever forgetting to bring home the notice to parents, I would inevitably end up with empty pockets and heavy heart, running my hands along the colourful spines, taking deep whiffs of the large type pages. Cursing under my breath at all the other kids gleefully snatching up all types of titles, not even looking at them!, and handing them over to stay-at-home Moms with wallets bristling with cash in ponytails and running shoes. 

Elementary school summers were whiled away with a rotating stack of books, laying in various awkward positions around our little red bungalow in White Rock, and then all around my Grandparents acreage as I swam into the worlds those books gave me, surfacing only to eat, and fuck with Koleman, and I don't know about anybody else but I was SORELY disappointed high school bore ZERO resemblance to Riverdale High. 

Those stories kept me fed and gave me a world I could jump into when my own was too tight and painful, during the years leading up to my parent's divorce, losing best friends, gaining weight and braces. My Mom and I kept all those books in the basement, from the Richard Scarry picture books I ripped pages out of in toddler glee, up to the mild pornography of some Judy Blume titles. Throwing them out would have been like surgically slicing out parts of my memory and tossing them into a drum fire. [When we moved and I discovered mice had gotten into some of those boxes and gnawed corners away and shit on the rest of them, I almost became an exterminator.]

I had the opportunity to meet Judy Blume years later when her book tour brought her to the book store I worked at, in Langley of all places. I waited in line patiently with my teetering pile of books, worn and loved from many many readings, and even though she only signed one or two of everybody else's books, watching me LOSE MY SHIT as I tried to introduce myself to her and thank her for somehow getting into my 10 year old brain and knowing EXACTLY what I was feeling all those years ago, compelled her to gently move me to the side of the line and patiently sit and talk with me while signing all of my books once everybody had filed out of there. 

 

I have a picture of the two of us; I look terrible, but I love this picture so much. She's on the left, the accomplished beloved writer, wiry and curly haired with a beautiful smile. I'm on the right, the big blotchy faced 22 year old would-be writer, stunned and shaky. It sits on my desk and reminds me that words kept me fed growing up, gorgeous feasts of places I'll never go and people I'll never meet, but they gave me the full and round imagination I have now and that is what keeps me sane and happy and able to share what goes bumping around in my brain with you right now.