I used to read a lot more. Oh, I read now, but it's mostly Facebook posts about cats and nostalgia and politics. I look at pictures of food. I keep up with the daily adventures of people I never see. Sometimes it seems that my life is ordered around the blinking blue or green light on my phone. It flashes, OMG, I must check it. Who is responding to my own posts, and what did they say? Did they like it? I hate reality TV, but it seems like my own life has devolved into one big reality show where human interaction has been replaced by sound bite emotion and two dimensional outrage where a picture is worth a thousand words, but utterly devoid of context.
There was a time, maybe not so long ago, when I read actual books. I would stay up until the wee hours, basking in the green glow of an old digital alarm clock with impossibly large numbers, delving into places fraught with danger and wonder where the hero always won and the bad guys always got what they deserved. It was so much easier, back then, to lose myself in these imaginary realms. The first line of a wrinkled paperback was enough to transport me instantly into the jungles of a dark continent, or into the depths of outer space, or into a world of smart robots and flying cars. Anything was possible.
Who cares if mom was gashed by a coffee mug? What was it to me if the SWAT team had been outside my front door putting the cross hairs on my crazy step dad? None of that mattered because at midnight it was quiet. Mom was back from the doctor with a bandage on her head and the step dad was sitting in jail again and the silence was wonderful. It was dark and the house slept and there were worlds to explore.
These days I can't stay up and read like I used to. I have to wear glasses now to do that, plus I have to work in the morning, and also I have a bad habit of falling asleep after a paragraph or two. Those are lame excuses, I know. What's to stop me from sitting in my easy chair? Instead of watching Science Channel or Pawn Stars, why can't I open my kindle and read all the books I've downloaded but never finished? I guess it's just harder to escape from a reality I actually like.
More and more, as I turn off the TV and ignore the blinking lights on my phone, I find myself reading again. Admittedly, it's harder to suspend my disbelief. Losing myself in the story isn't as easy as reading the first line. Sometimes it takes a chapter or two. It takes a little work. But you know what? The magic is coming back. And now that I'm older, I realize the magic of the story has nothing to do with dragons or heroes or far flung kingdoms. A well structured story and fleshed out characters simply highlight the enchantment of what it means to be human, of what it means to laugh and love and maybe be afraid once in awhile. More importantly, if you stick it out until the end, good things usually happen.
I have become the hero of my childhood stories, because I have persevered, and I am happy. It doesn't make me better than anyone else, because my story isn't markedly different from those of millions of others. I guess that's the point. A good story makes you realize that you are not alone after all.
And that, my friends, is magic.