I grew up in rainy Scottsburg, Oregon, where the average rainfall is enough to dampen anyone’s spirits. Early memories include splashing in mud puddles, swimming in the river (even when it rained), and cleaning mud off of myself, my shoes, the car, and the family dog. Given the amount of rain we had, there were days of sunshine, where my mother would chase me and my two-years younger brother out of the house because to stay inside on a sunny day was a sin, next to pillaging and plundering the cookie jar.
Scottsburg was a small community, more populated by trout, deer and elk, bears, and trees. It was green and growing every inch of it. It is, in fact, one of the most beautiful corners of the world. The town had but one store, one church, where we attended, and no stop lights. Houses are interspersed along the side of the highway, and that’s all there is to it.
My brother and I played as the best of friends when we were young. Having a TV, but only 1 ½ channels to watch in the boondocks, we learned to entertain ourselves. We made forts in the weeds, swam in the local river, the Umpqua, and fought, which is the duty of all siblings.
Somewhere around this point an author would usually point out their voracious reading habits, and interest in all things literary. But that is not my story by a long shot.
When I was in school I hated reading. It is not that I did not enjoy stories, I did. I had a kid sized, red record (as in vinyl) player where I often listened to a recording of an abridged version of The Hobbit, which I loved, and the comedic stories of Bill Cosby. These latter stories I could recite from memory.
No, it’s not that I did not like stories, but I hated reading. It was tedious, difficult, and always hard to focus long enough to begin to enjoy a story. It was the act of reading and recalling what I read that was such a task for me. I am sure my mom, who loved reading, thought this quite odd. To read a book was a major accomplishment in my own eyes, and when I ever finished one it was a milestone in my life. I carried this into much of my adulthood, where I still write down the names of good books I have enjoyed so as to never lose track of them.
My reading was so atrocious that I had to attend a “special” class for First-Fourth Grade and part of Fifth. I felt like a dunce. It wasn’t for quite some time before they finally decided my problem was that I didn’t retain what I read. I could read the words, but nothing was getting through into the reaches of my memory. Being an English teacher now, if I were to run into my former self, I would have this piece of advice to offer: Find a book he cannot resist. Something that follows his interest, or at least the TV shows he watches. Because unless a book captures his interest, no child will read it. These were the days before Harry Potter and the like.
I’ll spare you the boredom of the next few years. I went about life, grew up, had a crush on about half the girls in my class at some time or another, and found my way to high school. Here I got involved in band (the cornet), choir, basketball, and took classes way beyond my area of comfort. Knowing I could either take easy classes and get good grades, or take hard classes, learn a lot, and get not so stellar grades, I took the road less traveled and went with Physics, Math Analysis, and The Rise of the Novel. My prediction of poorer grades was correct, but I did learn a lot, for which I am still thankful.
I feel it necessary to say something about my spiritual growth here. I have never not believed in the God of the Bible (pardon the double negative). During the many of the struggles of high school, I do not know that I would have survived had it not been a very real and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and his indwelling Spirit. There is a whole book hiding behind my words here, but let me just say that had I not had that tie to the hope of mankind, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, I might not have made it to adulthood.
(To be continued)