I realized reading would be a constant in my life at an early age, something to transport me to far away lands. Living in the fields of Mississippi, at any moment, lightning can take the cool air and electricity, but not once did it take a book from my hand. The sun can roast bare feet, compel most to jump in muddy water, and dissuade outside play, but its punishing heat never melted any of my books; it took many ice cream sandwiches, never a book.
Friends who grazed the pasture periodically stopped by bending their head to my hand, awaiting saltines sneakily removed from Momma’s pantry. She still comments on my uncanny appetite for saltines, not having the heart to ruin a good story; I refrain from explaining it was the cows who most enjoyed the savory midday treat. In addition to an occasional pat of butter, cows also favored my reading aloud. Their all-time favorite was Pippi Longstocking.
Every child raised in the deep south has a favorite spot underneath a protective shade tree. Mine just happened to be shared with a small herd of dairy cows. Like children amassing for storytime, getting comfortable at their teachers’ feet, the cows seemingly knew to assume the position any time they saw me top the hill. What a sight to behold, a child nestled underneath a Mississippi Magnolia reading to an admiring bog of heifers. For me, it was just another day.
As much as time changes children into adults and days into years, it spares the sanctity of a good book, the feel of the cool hardcover, pages stiff with purpose, and the assurance that something has a start and a finish. Storms could rage, life could change, but I had certainty, at least in written form, as long as I had my books. I knew my spot, audience, and Momma would restock the saltines no matter what.
I can still find solace in a good book when life veers towards the thickets. From the comfort of my worn leather chair, the right story can bring me back to the soft blanket of rye grass and the warmth of Jersey cows crowding around my feet.
I wish you all moments of peace, calmness, and the power to escape in your favorite book.
Cherimie Crane Weatherford is the owner/founder of SugarBelle, a long-time real estate broker and a lover of the obscurities of southern culture. To contact her with praise and adoration, email CCWIslandNews@ gmail.com. To complain, call your local representative.