I can remember my curling up on my mother's bed in her bedroom as she read to me The Borrowers books, one chapter or so per night. The adventures of the Clock family beneath the floorboards of the English country home shall forever be remembered by me...and I shall always treasure the time spent lost in other worlds, alone with my mom. She also favored The Wind in the Willows, and the adventures of Rat, Mole, Toad and Badger.
Another beautiful, wonderful memory is my second grade teacher reading aloud to my class the book, Charlotte's Web. I'll never forget how we waited with baited breath every day for the time after lunch when she would pull the book out and read the next bit for about fifteen minutes or so. The day Charlotte died, there were thirty teary-eyed (or out-and-out crying) children in that room. All that emotion generated by that story--guaranteed it to always be remembered.
A book that I loved and read over and over again by myself when I was still quite young was Tomas Takes Charge. I never thought about it before, but...it was a book before its time. Published in 1966, it's about two young Hispanic siblings in Manhattan who are left to fend for themselves. They live in an abandoned building, forage for food, because they are afraid they'll be separated if found by the authorities. I don't know what it was that enthralled me about it--my childhood was the polar opposite of theirs--but enthralled I was. Everyone should read it. Find a copy and read it now, no matter your age. (Tomas Takes Charge by Charlene Joy Talbot)
I had my father's entire collection of original Hardy Boys books to read when I was young, and my mother regularly bought me new Nancy Drew books (my favorite was The Mystery of the 99 Steps) so those classics were read early and often.
I bet no other person can recall their seventh grade social studies teacher reading a book aloud to their class. I had the biggest crush on my teacher, Mr. Hughes--he of the long, dark sideburns and the thick, dark glasses, and the kindest brown eyes, and a voice like rich chocolate. Everybody knew it, including him...but I was still young enough that didn't bother me. Ah, youth. In any event, despite our sophisticated age of 12--nearly teenagers!--we waited with baited breath just as eagerly as my second grade class did, for the several times per week Mr. Hughes had set aside reading time, and he would pull out a copy of Johnny Tremain and ensnare us in the world of colonial Boston, and young Johnny's life as a silversmith apprentice and budding revolutionary. I also bet nobody in that class ever forgot the details we learned about that period of our country's history!
There were many more books, but these were some of the ones that stand out brightest in my childhood memories. But in addition to the written word, there were other things that influenced me and left indelible marks upon my childhood. I'm watching one right now--The Sound of Music. It's the earliest thing I can remember, as far as 'stories' go. I spent lots of time at my nanny's house up to age of four, ensconced in her sun parlor, playing the soundtrack record of the Sound of Music stage play, over and over again. I was told I could sing all the songs when I was four, and would sing some with my older sister singing harmony.
When the movie came out in 1965, I was seven, and I'll never forget seeing it with my father at the theater, huge on the screen, all my music come to life. It was one of the things I "imprinted" on, I think. I've always loved musicals (with my father, the original fanboy for movies, musicals, and operettas, indoctrinating me from birth, it was a foregone conclusion.)
A year later, the longest love affair of my life arrived: Star Trek. Who can say at such a youthful age why something grabs them so hard? All I knew was that it thrilled me to death to watch this show each week, to follow the adventures of Kirk and Spock and McCoy, Uhura and Sulu and Scotty, in their flying home, Enterprise. My parents went out to eat every Friday night, and when they'd linger over dinner, or take a detour to do something or other on the way home, I'd be having conniptions, getting gradually louder as the clock edged to 8:00p.m. And if it went past 8:00 and we weren't home yet? EEEEK! It was a wonder I didn't have a heart attack. They may not have gotten me home on time each Friday, but they knew better than to usurp the television for some other show when Star Trek was airing.
Shades of my future VCR and now DVR mania: I set up a recorder (that's a reel-to-reel recorder, kiddies, *not* a cassette) with the mic in front of the television in an attempt to capture the memories to relisten to at later times, thanks to my much older brother and his collection of the latest electronic devices. I might not have been able to watch them, but I could listen to Kirk and Spock over and over again. Technology and fandom from then on would be indelibly linked in my mind.
(Actually, I can also remember taping the Rogers and Hammerstein teleplay version of Cinderella about the same time--I think it was released in 1965, also. That was another musical whose songs I knew by heart.)
I certainly don't have those old reel-to-reels anymore...neither do I have the old black-and-white composition notebooks I used to write mostly Star Trek stories in the whole time I was in elementary school, after it aired in '66. Boy, I wish I did. I have no idea what became of them...guess I just threw them out. *cringe* Oh, well. When James Blish wrote his adaptations of the episodes, and suddenly Star Trek *was officially in the written word*....oh my! And then he wrote an Original Story--Spock Must Die! Double oh my! That was actually more exciting than when I later on found fanzines and the "un"official Star Trek in print. I guess your 'first' is always the most memorable, heh.
So what lead me down memory lane this evening? Lots of things. I was also wondering about the differences in generational experiences. While I had television and movies growing up, they weren't yet the kind of wholly encompassing part of everyday life they were in some respects in my own children's lives, and in those of youth today. There weren't as many shows and movies, and those that we liked tended to loom much larger, in a sense, due to a sparser offering, but also, we *read books* much more than it appears today's youth do. There just wasn't that much on tv; we couldn't turn it on and plug into any number of shows being aired, or pull from our shelves a tape or dvd to watch. If we wanted to go to another world, we had to work at it--we had to play and create with all of our imagination that other reality, or we had to pick up a book and read the words and use them to help draw the pictures and sounds and knowledge of another world, another place.
Recently, sockkpuppett wrote in her journal about the rabid incompetence in our country, and I couldn't have put it any better. The creeping apathy, ignorance and stupidity in our country is so blatant these days, it's not even funny anymore. I wonder how much of our country's native critical thinking skills are fading away as the average tv watcher plugs in and passively lets someone else do his/her thinking for them?
Something active fandom has going for it--it takes a passive medium and turns it into a creative force. It promotes creative writing and related skills, critical thinking and reading skills, dialoging and debate skills, and social skills through a sense of community. In other words, it's pretty damn cool *g*. But I do wonder how the stories of the twentysomethings in fandom differ from those of my generation, the generation of their parents--the stories they remember from their youth. Do they have memorable stories from the world of the written word, or are their memorable stories and worlds all derived from the visual media? And, does their differing experiences make for a different kind of creativity?
My father's generation had for its entertainment books and audio storytelling, radio, and the rise of talkies, movies, just coming into its own. There was still wonder at seeing things created on the big screen. My children have the rise of personal technology: iPODs and personal portable media players allowing them to take any media file they want with them at any time--tv shows or movies. I wonder how that effects them, us, society, and our creativity and our view of storytelling? Did they, when growing up, read a lot of children's books? Or, with the incredible technical ability we have now to create whole worlds and universes on screen via computerization, are they too jaded to enjoy the written word (other than the latest story in their favorite fandom? Ha.)
I'd love to hear everyone's own personal musings on the subject, not to mention any particular books, movies, and/or television that moved and touched you deeply while young and growing up. These are, after all, the things that help inform us and mold us into who we are, and I find that endlessly fascinating.