I have always loved reading. Earliest memories involve books and trips to the library. I cannot remember learning to read. I just read.
I once told my kindergarten teacher that she was doing it wrong. Clearly I already knew all of the things. I ended up waiting outside in the hall for her to come and talk with me about all of the things that I already knew.
I stayed up late reading The Happy Hollisters chapter books by the light shining through the crack of my bedroom door. The Humpty Dumpty nightlight was a second source of illumination for my late night reading binges.
Charlotte’s Web was my favorite childhood book. A copy greeted me in the room of the AirBnb where I stayed the first weekend of Certificate 2 training in February, 2018. Other than a few random magazines scattered over the surface of a dresser, it was the only reading material present.
I received this as a sign of care to come. Bringing a story of the young girl inside, this book sighting reminded me that she was seen and that she mattered. Memories came flooding back, and I knew that I wanted to write more about them.
A year passed. Words fell dormant. Writing for myself became a challenge met with resistance. The one-year anniversary of that solo road trip to Geneva, Illinois, prompted me to revisit feelings that stirred when I saw my favorite childhood book that weekend.
What made Charlotte’s Web so special to me as a child? Why did I have several copies scattered across bookshelves in my home, saved from the days when I hoped my children would find and read and love it as much as I did? A recent book declutter allowed me to release all of the paperback copies and save only my favorite hardcover.
Charlotte’s Web is the first book that drew me in as a reader.
From the beginning when Fern wrestles the ax from her father to save the runt of the litter, I was hooked. Fern and her talking animals offered a safe place of escape and imagination.
Charlotte’s Web is the first book that showed me possibilities.
Who knew that a piglet could drink from a bottle like a newborn baby? Who knew that a spider could write words so cleverly in her web? Who knew that she could be bloodthirsty, yet kind? Who knew that baby spiders could make silk balloons and float away?
Charlotte’s Web is the first book that stirred my emotions.
I felt a lump in my throat and a tightness in my chest when Charlotte was left behind at the fairground, her egg sac tucked into Templeton’s mouth with a feeling worse than caramel candy. I felt panic with Wilbur as Charlotte’s babies began floating away, leaving him behind.
Charlotte’s Web is the first book that made me cry.
I did not cry when she died and was left behind at the fairground, though that was sad. I sobbed when I finished the last paragraph.
Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.Charllotte’s Web, E.B. White, 184
My little girl heart broke with those lines. I read them over and over grieving the loss of a kind, courageous spider. I think I also grieved the end of the book and saying goodbye to all of the characters who had become like friends. These words offered a catalyst for unwept tears, and I indulged them deliciously.
Charlotte’s Web will forever be the first book that allowed me to feel, and for that I am grateful. What about you, Dear Readers? What is a childhood book that you loved or that stands out to you in a special way? Do share!