Department of English

Spring 2007 Edition

Turning Pages

Adrienne Gastrich
Expressive 1010 2nd Place
Professor: Kristin Brinkerhoff

It had been a rough day in the life of one certain teenager. Indeed that certain teenager was none other than me. I had just arrived home from school thoroughly depressed from the day’s events. My friend talked behind my back, my boyfriend emotionally abused me, and my grades were suffering as a result of it all. Not to mention, as soon as I walked in the door of my house, orders were barked at me and questions about my day were asked. The events of the day scrolled through my mind like slides on a movie reel. Tensions between my parents and me were running high, along with marred emotions running freely. I retreated to my room and tried to release stress by cleaning. I looked at the mess on my floor and groaned at the task ahead. I plopped down on my bed and glanced toward my bookshelf instead of accepting the mission I had originally set out to accomplish.

I thought about the time my dad and I went to buy it. On Saturdays, when I was younger, my dad and I would venture to yard sales around the neighborhood. Usually I would find a stuffed animal or rollerblades to buy; however, this time I saw an old, dented, paint-chipped bookcase. I decided that was what I was going to choose this Saturday. My dad thought it was a piece of junk. I, however, had made plans in my head of making it a home next to my bed. My dad agreed that I needed a bookcase, so he went ahead and purchased it for me. When I got home, I painted a fresh coat of white paint on it. It looked brand new and happy as if it was a little girl in a new Sunday dress.

Those were the days when life was simple. Innocence was cherished. Decisions were uncomplicated. Curiosity was encouraged. I thought about how it would feel to feel those feelings again. I decided to delve into the past with full force. The only thing that helped me do that was to scour my collection of novels, looking for something—anything—that I had not by now loved to death, cherished to the point where the text was illegible. 

The first book I singled out was a Nancy Drew adventure. I began reading the worn pages, expecting a mediocre re-run of a mediocre adventure. I was right; beyond each turn conquered by Nancy, disappointment loomed. The drawn-out mystery and ever-predictable villains resulted only in a groan, seemingly emitting from every uninterested inch of my body.

Dejected as I was by the failure to find stimulating material, I returned to the shelf with all but a portion of my intellect. I once again set out for a decent mind fodder. As I diverted my eyes to the lower shelves, the titles given to books seemingly transformed into more simplistic themes. I glanced past a Matt Christopher collection, and many other classics, until my eyes came to rest upon the smallest book on the shelf: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I removed the tattered copy from its home. As I turned the pages of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, I realized that it was more than a mere child’s book. The author, C.S. Lewis, addresses important issues through a code. Lewis’ allegory is done in the simplistic style of a child’s book, yet behind this façade, there are social, political, and philanthropic perspectives littering the pages. Lewis points out to the reader that curiosity is an inherent trait that could lead to great adventures. In the book Lucy discovers a whole new world behind a door. Aslan, the main character in the book, represents a religious figure. Lewis brought to the attention the fact that children are not limited by any of the antagonistic barriers to which the adult world has learned to succumb.

My journey through the incomprehensible vastness of my memories began as a search to relieve tension. It turned out to be quite a bit more meaningful. As I scanned my collection of books, I ventured deeper into myself, beyond the reaches of time and space. I saw different moments of my life as interpreted by artists such as Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger, Alice Sebold and the like. I was enlightened as I remembered how Huck Finn taught me more about growing up than I could have possibly learned from a lifetime of educational films. Holden Caulfield taught me that adults are not always omnipotent, dependable, or compassionate, and sometimes one has to learn from oneself and not from the models that are placed around them. The book The Lovely Bones gave me a sense of security and comfort about death. After Susie Salmon is murdered, she tells her story from heaven. Life on Earth moves on without her; however, memories of her are still cherished. I learned that when one loses someone it is okay to feel abandoned but not alone; it is okay to grieve but not dwell; it is okay to ask questions but not expect answers. And most of all, it is okay to move on without them. There are many more life lessons I was reminded of as I flipped through the chapters of my life.

As the battered pages turned, I was confronted head-on by the feelings of my past. There are countless emotions scattered about the pages of an old book: a tear stain there (I felt the pain of Alice in the book Go Ask Alice), a crushed noodle from chicken noodle soup (Mom was there when I had a stuffy nose). Everything is a landmark of faint but certainly not forgotten feelings. It is always a book—not a movie, nor a compute game—a book, in which I truly find who I am. The pages of a book are not just ink on pulped trees. They are the souls of the artists who sacrificed themselves, forever lingering, with cardboard covers for cell walls. The moment I realized this, a new world was opened to me in books.