My favorite childhood book was A Wrinkle in Time. I don’t think it was because the story was anything special, but because my favorite person in the world told me it was her favorite story. She lowered herself to my level, looked me directly in the eyes, the eyes of a 10 year old who didn’t know anyone really even saw her and said, this is my favorite story ever, and I want you to read it.
She handed me the book, her copy, worn and tattered, dog-eared with the binding bearing the grooved lines of having been open and shut numerous times, lying face down on a night stand awaiting the reader to return at daybreak.
I read the book, the first book I had read all by myself. I read it in secret, not because my parents wouldn’t approve, but because they really weren’t paying much attention to me anyway.
I loved the story because I loved my teacher who lent me her own personal copy. She was so integral in my life at that time. My home life was not particularly calm. In fact, most of my memories of my home life back then were my mother anxiously anticipating my father’s level of drunkenness and therefore deciding whether we needed to stay at a hotel or if it was safe to sleep in our own beds that night. I kept a duffel bag with pajamas and school clothes next to my bed just in case.
There is very little about the original story that I remember as an adult, but it still remains my go-to “favorite” book. I just remember a missing father and time travel. A missing father seemed less of a nightmare to me at that time, maybe because I welcomed the idea.
When I heard that a movie was being released, I jumped at the chance to revisit the story, but this time with my own children, ages 7 and 9. We have been reading it nightly for the past month or so. I’m not sure if this was a mistake on my part, as I haven’t enjoyed it as much as I thought I would. I really can’t put it to words, but now I am reading it with an adult mind, one that has escaped such a childhood, one that has made amends and even friends with a father that once tormented me.
I am reading it with a mind that remembers my favorite teacher getting a divorce, changing her last name, and dying from breast cancer. The weirdest thing I can say is that I still remember how she smelled when she would bend down to my level, look me in the eyes, and tell me how proud she was of me. She smelled like gardenias. She was my favorite person. After she died, they named a road after her. A road that ran passed the middle school where she taught in her final days. She must have been other students favorite person, too, to have a road named after her. I wonder how many of them were lucky enough to read her copy of A Wrinkle in Time.
Secretly, I hope none of them had the luxury, I hope that I was the only one.