I happen to have two overachieving younger siblings so by the time I was 6 years old and my brother was 5, he had taught himself to read while I couldn’t read fluently. It then became my mum’s life mission to teach me to read and every evening, by candlelight, she would make me read to her from the King James Version of the Bible. Needless to say, this didn’t end well.
My mum’s sessions with me didn’t end well because I would read with my finger tracing individual lines on the pages of the Bible while she felt I should be reading without the help of my fingers, following the lines with my eyes. Thankfully, my father saved me and employed an independent party to teach me to read.
By the time I turned 7 and my brother 6, he had read through the Bible and after reading the book of Revelations, he was convinced that the beasts were coming for him at night. He would wake in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and find his way to my parent’s room.
He resorted to reading the Bible because he had finished reading all the books we had at home. This marked the beginning of monthly family trips to Books and Books, a bookshop that had endless shelves whose aisles I would get lost in. At first, I stuck to picture books because they had fewer words in them and I would be done reading faster. Gradually, I lost myself in the sea of Enid Blyton books and soon started having tea parties with my younger sister.
When I turned 11 years old and my brother 10, I went away to boarding school and he stayed at home for his last year of primary school. I started having headaches during classes and I got sent to the Sick Bay where the doctor recommended an eye test. I was excited to get a free pass to go home for the weekend to see my brother and sister. I didn’t give a lot of thought to the eye test.
I remember my mum and I sitting in the reception of the eye clinic. She held my hand in hers while she looked straight ahead and whispered “sorry” to me under her breath. The eye doctor said I had Astigmatism and, apparently from the test results, I’d had it a long time. It explained why I had needed my fingers to guide me when I read. I got my first pair of glasses a week later and they helped me read faster, because everything was clearer and I didn’t need my fingers anymore. When I was 15 and my brother 14, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows was released. My father pre-ordered a copy for both of us. I remember the book was available for pickup at a bookstore called Booksville. On the day of the its global release, he closed early from work to make it in time to the bookstore and deliver the book to us that night. My brother had the first go with the book, stayed awake all night reading and by morning he was finished. I spent the rest of the day in bed with the book and by nightfall, I was finished as well. We discussed the genius that is J.K Rowling and mourned the deaths of our beloved characters. I remember the look on my parents’ faces, they were happy we were happy, with my sister chiming in the background that we were too in love with witchcraft.
My brother moved away for A-Levels and further away for University, but when he was 22 and I was 23, he came home after his degree. I had searched high and low for a particular book. You see, I never quite caught the bug of digital books. I still loved holding my books in my hands and suffering from the occasional paper cut. He suggested we visit Books and Books to find what I was looking for and my mum drove us there that afternoon. When we arrived at the location she was sure the bookstore was at, it was no longer there, and in its place was a large supermarket. My mum asked the staff a few questions to confirm we had come to the right place and indeed we had, we were told it became a supermarket a few years earlier.
It felt like I had dreamed up Books and Books, like the endless aisles of bookshelves that were my home as a child were a figment of my imagination. It was a season where everything was changing and I couldn’t trust the memory of my childhood. I would have loved more than anything to have something, anything, to hold on to from that period of my life.