CHOOSING MY OWN ADVENTURE
Across the United States of America there are thousands of insignificant towns in unpopulated rural areas. One of these little towns became my home for a short part of my childhood. My two younger sisters and I were plucked away from a bustling metropolis and moved to the town of Wilbur when I was nine years old. Fifteen years later, Wilbur is still the most depressing place I have experienced. Most of the inhabitants of this desolate town were farmers, but there were a few government positions for poor saps on the downspin of their careers. Wilbur had only basic amenities, a school, a post office, City Hall, one gas station, one overpriced grocery store, and a library.
The library consisted of one room inside the same red brick building as city hall. The rundown home my parents purchased upon moving to Wilbur was only a block down from the red brick building, and it quickly became my favorite spot. During the first summer of our confinement in Wilbur, my sisters and I signed up for the Reading Club at our local library and began a frenzy of reading. Each morning we would grab plastic bags, fill them with the books we read the day before, ride our bicycles down to the red brick building, and clamor inside as soon as the old librarian unlocked the glass doors. Inside there were honey oak tables, chairs, and shelving filled with a pitiful selection of books for young adults. The lack of variety was not enough to dampen our spirits. Being the children of the lower class meant making the best of free entertainment. Throughout the summer, everyone in the Reading Club kept track of how many pages and books they read. A sign was hung in the library announcing a prize would be given to whoever had read the most pages by the end of the summer.
My sisters and I were all motivated by the mysterious prize, and I quickly read through The Boxcar Kids and the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure series. Each day I would read three or four books, and when there was nothing left to pique my interest in the almost laughable teen section I began exploring other areas of the library. One day, while perusing through a skinny row of non-fiction shelves my eye became fixed on the bottom shelf. There laid a golden book with an ornate eye on the top of the spine. Slowly, I crouched down and placed two fingers on the top of the heavy book spine and pulled the tall hardback toward me. The cover read, A History of Ancient Egypt. Upon opening the book I was immediately mesmerized by the musty smell, the black and white photographs, and the hieroglyphs. I was so entranced I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. Excitement pulsed through my body as I clutched this book that suddenly felt taboo, as if delving into the secrets this book contained was forbidden. I ached to know more about the fascinating people in the golden book. Weeks went by as I read through this undoubtedly outdated book about the ancient Egyptians, even attempting to memorize the meaning of hieroglyphics. I spent hours daydreaming about becoming an archaeologist, exploring the world, and uncovering tombs. The adult section of the library was even more pathetic than the young adult section, and I asked the librarian daily for additional books on the subject with no luck.
August came quickly and I dreaded returning to school and leaving the fantasy world I had created through books during the summer. Though less than ten children competed in the library Reading Club the librarian threw a party for everyone in the city park. My sisters, mother, and I sat at the vandalized park tables while eating cake and playing games, ignoring the offensive genitalia carved into the wood. My foot tapped the ground quickly as I impatiently waited for the moment when the librarian would declare the winner, and hand out the long awaited, undisclosed prize I lusted over all summer. The cake was eaten, the games had been played, and I stared at the librarian who slowly stood to make the announcement. She shared a thank you and her excitement about the program, and then she reached into her bag to pull out a square wrapped object. “Alesia Proctor,” she said, “is the winner of the Reading Club Summer Contest.” I jumped up so quickly to claim my prize I nearly tripped. I could hear the parents softly giggling at my excitement, but I ignored them as I unwrapped the gift I had worked so hard to earn. As I tore the paper a brand new Eyewitness book titled Ancient Egypt was revealed.
Throughout my life books have created another world where I can become someone else and escape any dilemma. At only ten years old I discovered a lifelong connection through reading, and Ancient Egypt will always be a part of me. In Seeing & Writing 4, The McQuades wrote a passage titled, “Capturing Memorable Moments,” which discusses the complicated relationship between people and moments in their lives. They wrote, “Often the most memorable experiences occur when we least expect them or are difficult to capture in a picture frame on a mantel” (233). A child selecting a book from the shelf of a library could make a fairly boring portrait, but that moment changed everything in my life. My childhood and adolescence were enriched with the discovery of the mysterious Ancient Egypt, and my personal and professional goals continue to revolve around the land of the Pharaohs.
McQuade, Donald and Christine McQuade. “Capturing Memorable Moments.” Seeing & Writing 4. Eds. Donald and Christine
McQuade. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 233-235. Print.