11 January 2018.
A gust of cold wind blew through the window and I awoke to it. Wide awake. Ready to kickstart the day, only to realise it was barely 4 am. For the next two hours, I tried everything to put myself back to sleep. I finally dozed off, cuddling a book, just to be woken up by the blaring sound of my alarm. The day had just started and I was already in a foul mood, courtesy the lack of a good night’s sleep.
I dress up as usual, ride to work navigating myself through traffic and sit down at my desk. Just as I am losing myself in my work, another blaring sound brings me to reality. A terrifying one, to say the least. It is my mother, calling me with some news. She starts the phone by addressing me with her friend’s name. Thinking she just dialled the wrong number, I am almost on the verge of hanging up when she clears her throat and says the same name. Only this time, that name is followed by a sentence. “She’s no more…”
It’s funny how the utterance of a familiar name can invoke not just the memory of the person’s face but also associated smells and visuals. And just like that, before I can digest the news, I am transported back to my childhood…sitting in a corner of her house, with my nose buried in a book. Childcraft books, to be specific.
As a child, you live in a constant sphere of awe and wonder. Every new thing you stumble upon brings a sense of discovery with it and pushes you to explore a little more of the world. In those Childcraft books, I lost myself in a world of wonder quite frequently. She introduced me to that world, my mom’s friend. I lapped up the words and couldn’t wait to turn the page to discover the next new fact. In fact, so much did I enjoy going there and waiting for her to open the distinct blue door to her house, that the time to leave was almost physically painful.
A lot of happy Childcraft days later, I grew up. Got busy with my own life. Became independent and made my own friends. Hung out with them more often than going with my mom to her friends’ houses. But those childhood memories always urge me to enquire about them. Especially about her, for she had so lovingly nurtured the baby bookworm in me, for so many years.
Growing up, there is a childish belief that the people you grow up with and in front of are immortal. They always need to be around, right? Because how else would you imagine your own life? It gets defined, moulded, nurtured by those people. New people keep walking in and out of your life, but the old ones never actually leave. They stay, either in your life as a constant presence or in your memories.
It’s just then that you realise, people are immortal. Perhaps not in the physical form, but they remain immortal in the memories they build. Everlasting memories. Memories that left an impression. Memories that laid the foundation for your love of reading.
Each time I go back to a Childcraft book, I always think of her. It doesn’t matter how old I am. It won’t stop, even though she may be gone. But what will begin now is a sigh of loss with every flip of the page. A sense of regret will accompany that old sense of discovery, for I don’t think the tiny me ever said Thank You to her for welcoming me into her house and book collection. What will also begin now, is my urge to share the same sense of discovery with someone else. Through books. The hard bound ones. Through that delicious smell of old and familiar books. Through the tiny paper cuts decorating your fingers in your eagerness to read on…
You will live on, although you will be sorely missed…