Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my ‘nose in a book’ or my ‘head in the clouds’ while the four siblings were off being kids. Most of the time, the ‘head in the cloud’ phrase meant I was alone with pencil and paper, writing. The siblings were used to that. So much so that I think they forgot sometimes that I lived in the same house. Except for the youngest sister. She remembered me when spiders showed up in her room.
There was the day the siblings played basketball while I cried on the bed with a befuddled mother sitting next to me.
‘If they ask you to play you always say no.’
‘But I want to be asked!’
I still remember how I wailed those words, and how even then, I realized how silly that sounded. Because she was right. I would have said no if they’d asked.
There was the time my brother got mad at me for something when we were around nine or ten. I have no idea why. It’s not like I beat him at basketball. But to get back at me, he loosened the bolts on my bicycle’s handlebars and front tire.
The problem was, my nose was always in a book and my head in the clouds. Feet on pedals don’t work in those situations. The days and weeks passed and he forgot. Until one day his bike had a flat tire. He borrowed mine.
See? If that nose hadn’t been in the book, it probably would have been broken.
Then there were words.
‘What were you thinking?’
‘Didn’t you hear what I said?’
‘Didn’t you see me?’
Nope. I was thinking about Prince Caspian. I was hearing Arietty talking to Pod and Homily. I was seeing the wolves of Willoughby Chase running across frozen snow.
There were the nights with flashlights under the blankets, sneaking a book or whispering a made-up story to the youngest sibling.
There were joyous moments talking and talking and talking with a small group of friends about books we read. Matter of fact, fifty-odd years later I still talk books with those same girls. Oops. Women.
And there were all those times when the story world was a kinder place to be than the real world.
So if you see me smiling while you talk to me, there’s no guarantee I’m actually there.
My head’s probably in the clouds. In the stories.