Marie Spartali Stillman: Beatrice (1895)

(I know I said I was taking a digital breather, but I think we all know what that really meant was a break from social media. Writing and blogging is totally different!) (Or so I assure myself!)

It’s a July morning, a weekday at 7 am, and I’m curled up on the sofa with my coffee, lost in the pages of a book. The house is quiet, save for the gentle hum of the AC. I don’t have to work today – it’s the 4th of July, and my office is closed. I’m lingering leisurely, savoring the rare luxury of unhurried time, yet I presently find myself here at my desk anyway, in this familiar routine.

Today’s book is Stephen King’s If It Bleeds, and as I read, my mind wandered. I can’t help but notice how his writing feels increasingly tinged with a sort of nostalgic melancholia. It makes me think of when I first read IT, published in 1986, though I probably devoured it in 1987 when I was eleven. In my memory, that’s when I read everything. Back then, the kids in his books felt like real kids to me. They had outrageously horrifying adventures, of course, but their words and thoughts weren’t always dripping with reflections and portents.. were they? O…r were they? I was only a kid, too. Perhaps I didn’t observe or internalize that vibe; perhaps I couldn’t have recognized it even if I had.

I found myself glancing up from my book, taking in my surroundings. Here I am, a middle-aged person, reading on a comfortable (and not inexpensive) sofa. Morning light stipples through the lace curtains of the house I now own outright. The AC blows on my sockless feet, chilling me even in midsummer – it’s very robust; we just had a lot of duct work done! This dawn-light ritual has become so vital to my day, a cocoon of comfort I’ve carefully crafted.

But as I sit here, I can’t help feeling it doesn’t quite measure up to those vivid memories of my eleventh year. I can still see myself, a chubby preteen growing out of my clothes, sprawled on a vinyl chaise lounge on our dusty screened porch. Hour after sticky hour, I’d sit there, plowing through stacks of lurid paperbacks. Sweat trickling down my back, thighs peeling off the seat when I shifted. I’d gulp down endless icy cups of Crystal Light (the horrid red kind, probably full of now-banned dyes). It was gross and uncomfortable, and yet… I loved it fiercely. When I think back on my childhood, it’s these humid afternoons of feverish reading that stand out as some kind of high point. The kind you can’t recreate, no matter how hard you try.

I’m feeling pretty maudlin lately, and I can’t pin it all on Stephen King. I keep asking myself: as much as I enjoy my cozy morning reads, why don’t they ever quite match up to those sweaty summer afternoons? Is it because at eleven, my whole life stretched out ahead of me, full of unknowns? While now, I feel like I’ve already lived the bulk of it?

Which is ridiculous, right? I’m not even 50. There’s still plenty of road ahead.

I find myself hopeful that every phase of life has its own peculiar charm? Yes, childhood had its magic, but adulthood has its own wonders, too. The ability to create a space that nurtures my passions, the depth of understanding I bring to my reading now, the quiet satisfaction of a life built on my own terms – these are not small things. There’s something to be said for this life I’ve pieced together. It’s not nothing, is it?

I wonder if instead of trying to relive that childhood intensity, I could find a way to tap into that openness, that hunger for stories, right here in my present. There are still worlds to explore, both in these pages and beyond them.
Those memories of reading marathons in muggy, mosquito-filled Florida summers – they’re part of me. But I don’t want to get lost in them. Maybe they can serve as a reminder of why I fell in love with books in the first place. What if I could bring some of that raw enthusiasm to my reading now? What strange new territories might I stumble into? What might I learn about myself in the process?

Who’s to say the most vivid moments are all in the past? (Notice I didn’t say “the best moments,” ha! Not over here trying to say I ever had any glory days.) There could be something waiting in the next chapter, or in a random Thursday morning like this one. This might just be the pinnacle of joy I’ll be nostalgic for decades from now.


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ericka says

This resonated so much with me Sarah, I was a bit older than you when I first started reading Stephen King but like you, devoured them over Summer Holidays, sprawled out on a blanket in the garden, a plate of sandwiches and crisps beside me, and occasional coke floats.
Have you ever read Charles de LInt, his Newford stories are my favourite and when I re-read and re-read them each time I'm totally lost in the world he creates.

S. Elizabeth says

I have NOT read Charles de Lint and I simply must remedy this! ALSO! There is a book you mentioned to me ages and ages ago and I have again forgotten what it was? All I can say is that I think you called it a favorite. And maybe that it was cozy in some way or another. Can you indulge me and remind me what it was?

Melvillain says

"I find myself hopeful that every phase of life has its own peculiar charm? Yes, childhood had its magic, but adulthood has its own wonders, too. The ability to create a space that nurtures my passions, the depth of understanding I bring to my reading now, the quiet satisfaction of a life built on my own terms – these are not small things. There's something to be said for this life I've pieced together. It's not nothing, is it?"

I am 50. This year. What I found throughout my 40's was the savor of all those memories. A melange of past perspectives that inform my current moments. I love the young for their exuberance and energy, but my fondness for my contemporaries–new and old–is a recognizance for fellow travelers. That's why I read your blog. No longer in contact with many of the young women I knew coming up, you are like letters from home. People are strange when you're a stranger. But the well met stranger is like a friend from the past.

Hannah Jones-Trudeau says

The final lines of Louise Gluck's poem Nostos read "We look at the world once, in childhood.//
The rest is memory." I think of them often and this post made me think of them again, but I don't know that they are perfectly true. For me, it is more like childhood taught me what to pay attention to and they are the things I have been paying attention to throughout my life. I hope I have many crystal clear moments of lucidity and presence ahead and I hope the same for you <3

Jennifer says

This resonates so much. As an adult in a relatively privileged position, I have the ability to expose myself to beautiful and magical things yet that “raw enthusiasm” you wrote of, that can be so hard to find again. How do you “de-jade” or “inexperience” yourself?! Haha.

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