Yesterday, I slogged through a few composition exams full of passive voice and rogue commas and introductions beginning with the dawn of man. Then I spent an afternoon recognizing, bemoaning, and finally accepting and researching through a big hole in my book manuscript’s logic. My home office, which cruelly faces west, slowly became an incubator for my foul mood. I made it to 9 pm angry at the world and smelling like a foot.
Some days require a small evening celebration, a recognition that you survived.
So I sprawled out on the bed with an issue of Real Simple magazine and a small glass of Bailey’s on ice. I found some old episodes of My So-Called Life on Netflix and discovered, happily, that the next episode in my queue was the big reveal of Jordan Catalano’s illiteracy, an episode that involves much brooding in high school hallways and fur-lined corduroy jackets. Oh Jared Leto. (Huge events take place on this earth every day. Earthquakes, hurricanes, even glaciers move. So why couldn’t he just — look at me?)
Don’t judge. That show is awesome.
My evening of self-indulgent teen drama reminded me of the little things in elementary school that had the power to turn around a truly heinous day. I considered the 64-pack of crayons with a sharpener on the side, a luxury I’ve discussed on this blog before, as well as the wooden nickel you could redeem for a chocolate chip cookie upon finishing a hamburger at Fuddruckers. I thought about those Saturday afternoons choosing the exact right Lisa Frank folder for a new school year and that time mom let me buy a dark purple, pleated denim skirt by Jordache.
But do you know what I landed on? Book orders. Do you remember book orders? Those newsprint leaflets by Scholastic or some other children’s literature publisher? All that jazzy prose describing the plot twist in Ramona Quimby’s next adventure, the uniform boxes of the order form on the final page, the promise of a free bookmark. (Reading is out of this world!) And the Sophie’s Choice of third grade: Louis Sachar’s Sideways Stories from Wayside School or a scintillating new Choose Your Own Adventure, a book promising dinosaurs AND a haunted hotel AND a vampiress searching for the lost jewels of an Amazonian king… and the page jump just revealed that the prize emerald is in your knapsack!
Roald Dahl could usually trump all other options. He always wrote about newts, a reptile that sounds delightfully British.
While I obviously became quite a bookworm, my fond memories of book orders have little to do with reading. I remember the days the order landed on my desk and the serious task of scrutinizing my options much more than the day the books were finally delivered. Our elementary school years are full of rituals and rites of passage, events momentous and trivial that create a steady rhythm of anticipation and fulfillment. Friday night slumber parties, summer vacation, pumpkin carving, cashing in a fistful of tickets at the arcade.The book order is an important reminder, I think, to keep something out there to anticipate. A carrot, carrots readers, to tempt you through the daily grind.
I’m working on finding the over-18 equivalent for that whir of excitement that accompanied stuffing birthday party goody bags.