A while back, a friend of mine was going through treatment, and I read the 20 questions they give you to see if you're an alcoholic. I looked up at the end and said, "Well, if you replace the word alcohol with books, that's me." I am a bookaholic. I get up planning what I'm going to read that day. I have books in every room, and a stack of books by every chair that I claim as mine. I read new books, re-read old favorites, and I am still searching for a few books that I read as a child but either can't find or never did find out what they were. Proust can have his madeleines; I have books.
When I was
a little girl, in first, maybe second grade, in Escondido, California, our teacher read a Western aloud to us. I’ve been trying to find it ever since. Our teacher was Hispanic, with lustrous black hair
and eyes. Her voice read steadily, with
meaning and accents in all the right places. It was
about a cowboy who came down into what was then northern Mexico, and today is Southern California: the Salinas
Valley, perhaps, or Escondido, or one of many other valleys.
I walked my
way through the groves, avoiding the mansion – they didn’t like trespassers,
even or especially not children – and emerged on the crest of rolling hills
that went on forever. Scrubby, brown,
endless; mottled with color, blazing with poppies – I don’t remember the
cowboy’s name, but I knew where he had been, and could hardly wait to see where he would
He ended up
with a Spanish wife, another woman with lustrous black hair and eyes, whose
voice was accented and soft. They had a
son, and I still remember the scene where they decided what to name him. They chose his
first name, which I have totally forgotten. What I do
remember was when his wife said that only one name wouldn't do. You named a
child after everyone who was important to you: grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, best friends, and acquaintances. But our cowboy was all alone, and I think what impressed me was that it was the first time he realized how alone he was, because I felt much the same. He could only think of one
friend, Joe. “d’Joe” she said,
pronouncing the “j” as “h”… And it became the son's middle name.
that. And no more. I asked the teacher, at the end of the year,
what the name of the book was – and she couldn’t remember. But I’ve wanted to read the rest of that book
for a very long time. I want to know what the rest of his - their - journey was. Maybe some
day I'll find it. If it rings a bell with anybody, please let me know.