Our house was a comic strip heaven – my two sisters and I read comics like other people eat porridge or toast for breakfast. In Belgium and some other European countries, it’s a common sight for children (young and old) to be engrossed in a comic strip without adults worrying why it’s so quiet…
Our house was a book heaven – my two sisters and I took to books like ducks to water. I am not sure where all those books came from, I don’t recall visits to the library as a young child, but I remember books as gifts and perhaps my mother bought some for us when she bought for herself.
Liliane, my mother, was a devote member of the Book Club ECI, not the kind of club where you meet and discuss a book, but an exclusive membership that allowed you to buy (compulsory in fact) the newest published works at a reduced price with for-the-booklover-tantalising-extras on top. In later years, her eyes needed help from a magnifying glass (just like her father’s) to keep reading. I mentioned talking books to her, but she wasn’t keen. When you can’t decipher the words anymore, what is your next best option as a voracious reader?
One very poignant childhood memory I’d like to share is watching a youth series on tv on Wednesday afternoons (school finishes at noon on Wednesdays in Belgium!). It made such an impression on me that for years I have wondered what the series was called. I remembered some details: it was definitely Scandinavian, the protagonists were a boy and a girl, one with the whitest of hair. They exchanged a white stone backward and forth, the stone was magic, something really precious. As a child I sensed the tenderness of the two children’s friendship, their unique bond and a bit of secrecy. It was as if they were not allowed to play together (that’s correct I found out).
Some persistent googling led me to some clips of the programme on YouTube. The white stone tv-series from 1973 is based on Swedish Gunnel Linde’s book Den vita stenen from 1964. Perhaps the series’ piano intro (still beautiful) and the appearance of a piano teacher also drew my undivided attention to this series at the time. Finding a copy of the book is proving very very difficult. I’d love to read the original story.
Liliane, my mother, my moeke, was an avid reader and passed on her love for stories/books/literature, imperceptibly woven in her love for her three daughters. At her eulogy recently, her partner’s eldest son commented that he had been oblivious of the number of books in the house (and that is, I know, after mum had been culling her book collection in recent years). These books are now a tangible visual reminder of her, her favourite spot on the couch and the pile of books on the side table, waiting.