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Memory Lane

Aesops Fables - Random House Value Publishing

As near as I can tell, this is where it began for me with books. I still remember this book in our old house, so it was no later than 1973. My favorite part of the day, and just before going to bed, was when Mom would read to me. I had a lot of books back then, and I still remember a few of them vividly: Mother Goose's Tales, whose cover featured a woman (presumably Mother Goose) riding a giant goose; Richard Scary; a childrens' Bible with a particularly shocking illustration of David's battle with Goliath; and a book about magnets from one of my older cousins which held a certain fascination for me because the binding itself had a magnet in it. But of all the books in our house,  Aesop's Fables was in a category of its own.


It was an edition from the early 1900's, and had been my grandmother's. Just looking at it, it was so clearly from another age. Every detail of that book proclaimed its particularity: the rough, pulpy texture of the yellowing pages, the brittle fine little threads frayed out from the binding, the dull brown/gray canvas cover with ornate raised black lettering (with much of the pigment now missing), and most striking: the illustrations. Those richly detailed monochrome etchings harkened back to an era before DisneyCorp "cutsified" everything. There were no mice dancing with frogs, or cats riding bicycles in this book. No; instead there were gruesome depictions of animals eating each other, wolves glowering menicingly at little children, their mortal peril almost palpable. I just knew somehow that this book was giving it to me straight- nothing sugarcoated. God, I loved every story- each so obviously instructive and useful.


I could just stop here and say that Aesop's Fables was one of my earliest and favorite books, and in those formative years really started me off with a love for reading, but there is something else I wonder about. Maybe everything in the universe is connected somehow. I don't know, but when I got to Kindergarten, I read from Aesop's Fables to show my teacher that I could read.  There was only one other kid in my class who could already read: this Asian girl named Emily. So every day, Emily and I used to get sent over to read with the 1st graders, and we became friends, and in my mind she was kind of like a  -well "girlfriend" wouldn't be quite the right word, but I thought we were like a "special pair" or something. So does that mean I was "destined" to marry a smart Asian woman 30 years later? Of course not!  Still... I would be reluctant to completely discount the strength and significance of early experiences like that. In my little Kindergartener's brain, Emily was the form and substance of the ideal girl.