Yesterday my daughter-in -law sent me a photo of my granddaughter Sophia reading her first Sweet Valley High book. It meant a lot to me as I remember how much I loved Sweet Valley High books……
When I was young and trying to endure a bad childhood books were my best friends. In those days our High School did not have a library, and we looked forward to the quarterly visits from the travelling Bookmobile.
We used to climb up the stairs to the interior of the truck in anticipation of what we might find. What character of what book would I live through when times became unbearable? Maybe Nancy Drew would take me along on one of her missions while I would sit for hours on end by myself while my father tended to my mother in the hospital.
As I got older and went out on my own I would always have a book and a library card in my tote bag. One could just walk into any library and smell the books that would take you anywhere you wanted to go. I used to love to see the smiles of children as they handed their books to the librarian, knowing that their parents would read stories and expose them to the world of fascinating words and ideas.
Years ago my brother-in-law called to tell me that my sister Robin was sick, so the next day I drove down to see her. The minute I walked in the door and looked at her I saw my late mother’s eyes looking at me. I knew she was terminally ill although everyone around her had such hope. Within three weeks her bowels ruptured and she was diagnosed with the family disease called Lymphoma.
And so began the 3 hour return journey every second day to see her at the Kingston Cancer Hospital. Most times she was unconscious and did not know I was there. One day I sat in the waiting room and saw a copy of the teen book series “Sweet Valley High” and started reading it. Suddenly the book’s characters Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield became people I could rely on to get me through the day.
If you asked me today what the stories were about I could not tell you. But every second day I was at the library checking out “Sweet Valley High” books as I was living their normal lives in my mind.
Why was I not reading something a little deeper you ask? The truth be told is I could not handle anything more than that and the librarian never questioned me. My life was full of canyons of chaos so I had to live in a fictional world to have some sort of emotional comfort.
Each time one of the nurses in the ICU unit would see me they would ask me what was going on in Sweet Valley High. While I sat beside my dying sister I read to her about the twin’s daily antics that did not include a cell phone or texting.
My sister died that August after they pulled the plug, deeming that she had no quality of life left. A few months later they found a lump – this time on me. What should I do? The only thing that got me though everything was continuing to read books.
I think I read every Sweet Valley High Book in the Carleton Place library and not once did they question why. All they ever did was stamp my books and keep me going with their words and love.