Much to my parents’ annoyance, I was that child who snuck out of bed at night “for a glass of water,” taking my book with me and trying to hide in the bathroom so I could finish “just one more chapter.” Sleep wasn’t near as important as finally reaching “The End.” I can still remember that feeling: the desperation to know what happened next.
What I can’t seem to remember is which book in particular I was reading.
A few stick out: Black Beauty and Misty of Chincoteague were remnants of my horse-mad phase; Madeline L’Engle stole my heart with A Wind in the Door and A Wrinkle in Time; Laura Ingalls and Anne Shirley played together in my imagination; and Watership Down was so much more to me than “a book about rabbits.”
But I know there were others, others with scenes so permanently etched in my brain I can nearly remember a paragraph or a sentence word for word. I’ve gone looking for those books over and over again, wondering if they were really as amazing as I remember, wanting to seep myself back in the “new to the wonders of reading” feeling they gave me.
But the title, the author – those tiny details elude me every time. I’ve tried Googling – tossing in “that book with the boy who was taught to dance by desert lynxes and used the dance later to thread his way through a labyrinth of swinging blades to win a crown and a princess” or “a book about a fire station messenger on horseback” or “girl slips through into a fae world and back with the help of a thunderstorm.”
No luck, no dice. Google is as confused as I am, as confused as my bookish friends who stare at me in confusion if I ask if they remember reading the same book. They liked fantasy and horses, surely they read the same one-in-a-million book that may now be out of print and out of reach. Nope, not a one.
There are times I wonder which stories I actually read, or if some of them were created by my young little writer’s mind, so vivid that I assumed they must have shown up on a page somewhere first.
Either way, those misremembered stories and utterly forgotten titles shaped me just as much as those I still hold near and dear to my heart.
Maybe someday I’ll stumble on to one of them in a used book store or a dusty library. I hope so, for nostalgia’s sake if nothing else.
Do you have any books you wish you remembered from when you first fell in love with long books? Did you ever find any of them again? Let me know over on Twitter @C_L_McCollum