When I was a little girl, my favorite book of all times was “The Gateway to Storyland.” It was full of wonderful (and frightening) stories that captured my heart and my imagination. The book was one of the many presents that Santa Claus gave me and my sisters for Christmas when I was two years old. I loved that book. Of course, my favorite story was “The Sugar Plum Tree.” I can still recite that poem by heart, which I think is pretty remarkable, since most of the time I can’t remember what I had for breakfast or if I locked the front door. I still have the book, and it is the most treasured possession that I have from my childhood. I have kept it in a special place in a dresser drawer for years.
A few days ago, I was reminded of the story book when I saw a rabbit in my garden eating my lettuce. I immediately thought about Peter Rabbit, but had forgotten the details of his little misadventure. I went to get my book and refresh my memory. It wasn’t there. I stared at the empty space where my book was supposed to be. I must have put it in a different drawer. I went through all of the dresser drawers. No luck. I felt the beginnings of a panic attack coming on. Where was my book? I calmed myself down and went through all of the drawers again. Nothing. Maybe it was in the closet. Nope. Then I remembered that I had been de-cluttering over the past year and I had put the book in another spot. I just couldn’t remember where.
I went downstairs and rummaged through the bookcase. Not there. Where in the world could I have put it? And then a horrible thought crossed my mind. Could I have accidentally given my precious book away during one of my de-cluttering frenzies? I fought back tears as I thought about my book being gone forever. Certainly, I could look up the stories on wickipedia. I might even be able to find another copy somewhere. But it wouldn’t be the same. Santa Claus himself had neatly written our names in the book as well as the year he gave it to us. I frantically tore through the house looking for that book, but it was nowhere to be found.
Sweaty and exhausted, I had to accept the fact that my book was gone. Maybe I did give it away and it found a new home where it was loved and appreciated. Probably not; the book was in such terrible shape that it probably ended up in a trash pile. Thinking about my book being tossed aside like an old shoe was the final straw that brought me to tears. I took a few minutes to pull myself together and then meticulously began searching again. One anxiety filled hour later, I found my beloved book downstairs neatly tucked away between my anatomy and physiology textbooks. Good grief, what was I thinking when I put it there?
I was so relieved that I hugged the tattered book to my chest. I was so exhausted that couldn’t look at the stories and the enticing illustrations, but I did return it to it’s place of honor in the top drawer of my dresser where I could see it every day. I admired my beautiful book as I tenderly laid it back in it’s place. The front cover is cracked, the back cover is missing, and the spine is held together with masking tape that my mother put there sometime in the 1970’s. But to my eyes, it is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and the most compelling piece of literary genius I have ever experienced. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And, no, you can’t tell a book by it’s cover.
But you can go back to a magical place where gifted storytellers use the imagination and curiosity of a child to teach important life’s lessons. To where a big bad wolf cannot blow your house down, as long as you build it with strong, sturdy walls. And where a little red hen bakes bread, but it takes a lot of work and effort. And somewhere in a harbor there is a magic tree that grows candy and is guarded by a chocolate cat and a gingerbread dog. The truth is, those stories and memories are so deep within my memory and my heart that I’ll never forget them. But I sure am glad I found my book. Finally, just in case you are wondering, “The Gateway to Storyland” is still my favorite book of all times!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP