“If you take a book with you on a journey, ” Mo had said when he put the first one in her box, “an odd thing happens: The book begins collecting your memories. And forever after you only have to open that book to be back where you first read it. It will all come into your mind with the very first words: the sights you saw in that place, what it smelled like, the ice cream you ate while you were reading it…yes, books are like flypaper–memories cling to the printed page better than anything else.”
~Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
The other book that holds such strong memories for me is Inkheart itself. I was one of those people who went to see the movie before I’d ever read the book. Oh, I’d heard of the book, I just hadn’t gotten to reading it yet.
When the movie came out, Justin and I had been dating for a while. He took me to see Inkheart because it sounded like something I would like. To our surprise, halfway through the movie, they introduce Fuvlio, the author of the book Mo read Dustfinger and Capricorn out of. Justin snickered and nudged me. “That’s you and your characters,” he told me as we watched Fuvlio and Dustfinger interact. (Between Inkheart and Nim’s Island, Justin is convinced authors are a crazy bunch.)
I decided I had to read this book. But I still didn’t get around to it until months later, after we were married and had been living in Michigan for a while. Inkheart was one of the first books I checked out of the Marquette library.
Back then, I didn’t have my own car. We lived in an apartment in the middle of town, about two miles from the library. I did, however, have my bike. And through that entire summer, three or four times a week, I would load up Justin’s ratty college backpack with my laptop and library books, bike to the library, spend a blissful few hours writing and browsing (and missing lunch on more than one occasion), then biking home with a 20 pound load of new books.
It’s been four years since that first summer, and a lot has happened since then. But last week, I got the first Inkheart book in the mail from Paperbackswap.com. It had been a rough day–I ‘d just gotten home from grocery shopping. Justin was working on the fence in our backyard. Toby hadn’t been sleeping well for several nights and threw a huge fit when I tried to get him down for a nap. I’d been stuck on my work-in-progress for a week and a half at that point.
After I finally got Toby to sleep, I stared at the dishes, the laundry, and said “not now.” I brewed a cup of coffee, cut myself a big slice of banana bread (even though that is not on my diet), and flopped into the recliner with Inkheart. As soon as I opened it, I remembered that summer–the heady smell of lilacs next to the bike path, the wind whipping my hair as I rode to the library, the fog over the sliver of lake I could see from my kitchen window as I first sat down to read Inkheart.
I smiled. I’d been drinking tea that morning, four years ago. The morning a week ago, I was drinking coffee because I’d decided this year that I needed the stronger caffeine boost. But Inkheart, and Mo, and Meggie, and Dustfinger, were all the same. Just as I remembered them years ago. Just as the characters of The Long Patrol have stayed the same since the first time I read it, in the year of the tornado.
Mo was right. Books do catch memories like sticky fly-paper. They also provide a beautiful, wonderful thing to someone like me, someone who has become a lover of the quiet, routine, at-home life. When my world is a whirlwind, I take comfort knowing that I can open a book–any book–and the characters will still be same as they were two, five, ten years ago. They say the same things, have the same wonderful personalities, and good always wins. Nothing changes, and sometimes, I need that.