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On how books build relationships




Being an only child for 13 years, I didn’t have much company growing up. I had friends and

neighbors, but I was mostly surrounded by older people: my mom, my grandmother, and

sometimes my dad.

 

Both avid readers, my parents started buying books for me even before I was born, so by

the time I was 5 years old I had a small collection of illustrated children’s books that I would

ask my grandmother to read to me before bed. Since I was born, she was very close to me,

her first grandchild. I proudly tell everyone (including my sister and cousin) that I am her

favorite. She still remembers the exact time I was born, my size and weight at birth, the first

tooth I lost, and my first day at school. Sadly, my first day as a first grader and the loss of my

first tooth happened around the same time and she made sure to immortalize that with a

whole album. Tens of pictures of a young me, smiling at the camera with no teeth.

 

My mom worked long hours, so my grandma would stay with me after school, cook for me,

and put me to bed. Being the daughter of night owls, I was always awake way past a normal

bedtime for a child, so my grandma would offer to read a short story to help me wind down.

We created our bedtime routine around story time and got closer together each night.

While she read to me out loud, I would create the images in my mind of The Magic Bus, with

Ms. Fizzle bringing her students on the most exciting trips around fantastic sceneries that

taught them about different subjects like the human body, space, or the sea. I allowed my

imagination to turn me into one of Ms. Fizzle’s students and pictured myself in the stories

my grandma would read to me. One day we were in the human bloodstream and the next

one inside a plane. In a way, my grandma was my own Ms. Fizzle, she taught me how to

travel with my mind and allowed me to build a rich language at a young age while spending

quality time with me.

 

As time passed, I had already collected all of Ms. Fizzle’s books, knew them by heart and I

had learned to read on my own, but that didn’t change my bedtime routine with Grandma. I

started asking her to read the same stories she would read to me before, changing some of

the parts of it and asking her to wake up when she fell asleep while I read to her “Wake up

grandma! I’m not done yet.”

 

My grandma undoubtedly loved me as soon as she knew I existed. She pictured my face

while she sewed by hand the basket that would be used to bring me home as soon as I was

born, she gave me my second name and cured my belly button. She traveled to another city

for my birth and stayed for months to be with us. When my parents divorced, she spent

over half the year with us to care for me. Those actions were the first signs of her love

towards me, but through her stories, the quality time she spent with me, and the attention

she gave me, I learned to love her back. Her reading to me and then me reading back to her

now makes a huge part of our memories together, and our bedtime routine made her the

person I hold the closest to my heart, the main authority in my life, and the person I respect

the most. “Close your eyes Camilita, picture the scene…”

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