When I was a child, I was often called “a serious boy” by those who sat on taller seats and more important chairs, with the air of authority puffing them up and giving them the ability to pronounce a simple judgement about the complex workings of my dreams and desires. Yet words have power, and I began to be serious even when my dreams were filled with magic swords and mermaids and castles at the hearts of treacherous mazes. I read books about history and mythology and great literature to trick the big people with their serious expectations into believing that I was as serious as they thought I should be. In reality, I just loved the stories.
After coming home and leaving my serious books and my serious expectations on the dining-room table, I would gather up my true favorites, my secret loves, and hide beneath the bottom shelf in my walk-in closet. I would take with me the tales of Arthur and his knights, the different passages to Narnia, and most belovedly the wondrous tales of Oz. There are children who read because they have to, and ones who read because it’s expected of them, and a few – a very lucky few – who do not read at all but rather swim and dive and drown in reading. To become something and someone else for untold whiles in the thick weight and light breath of true wonder.
I have always tried to keep my secret-self; to remember the paths and byways of fairylands and fantastic places. As the years have grown up around me, I have traded old friends for new ones and discovered others that touch me as deeply as any I’d met before. I also hid my secret well, I have books and tomes and volume after volume about serious things on serious shelves that you would never suspect were filled with sideways paths and slanting doorways to the magic places where my true heart lives.