And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
– Robert Fulghum
Somewhere between 8 and 9 years old, I pulled a book off of my grandparents’ bookshelf. The title was almost Seussian, so I was immediately intrigued. If had been a gift, my grandmother explained. For her birthday. From a friend or relative. From some other such individual of the grown-up class.
Could I read it?
A stern look.
May I read it?
Of course, she said, but she didn’t think I’d like it much.
I liked it so much I read and re-read Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten over and over again until my grandmother handed his second book to me.
I’m still uncertain whether she wanted to read Fulghum’s further writings or if my grandmother was simply following her grandmotherly motivation.
I could ask her, but I like the not knowing better.
Tonight, as I sat reading and writing in the local coffee shop-cum-used bookstore, I looked up in a moment of frustration and saw a copy of All I Really Need to Know… on far away shelf.
From there, I wrote frenetically, driven by the fear that someone might see the book before I finished and buy it from under me.
If this 1988 tome meant so much to me, surely others placed the same value on its contents.
Luckily, the book was still shelved when I finished.
I took it to the counter, waited in line, handed the barista the dirty fork from my fruit salad and said, “I’d like to buy this book” with more bravado than I think she was expecting.
I’ve been reading it ever since. I read through dinner. I read when I got back home. Were it not for drooping eyes, I’d still be reading.
It’s been some time since I returned to Fulghum’s prime work, and I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before.
I’m not sure if I wasn’t ready or hadn’t lived enough yet, but tonight, as I read, I heard the voices of those who shaped and continue to shape who I am.
In one essay, I heard the voice of the college professor who became mentor and now is friend and colleague.
In another, I heard Bud’s tone, wit and optimistic pragmatism and was reminded why I value his voice and Fulghum’s.
In the moments I paused and now as I write this, I’ve started to wonder.
I wonder if I would have collected, valued, cherished and pulled these people so winter-blanket close to me had I not picked up and fallen into copacetic agreement with that book when I was 8 or 9.
Logical, rational me says of course I would have. These pieces of identity were in place long before the book or any of the people happened into our life, says he.
I’m tempted to listen to him only briefly. I don’t care for what he’s selling. It doesn’t sound like me.
The whimsical version of the truth suits me much better. In this book I find not only myself. I find those who are the LEGOs of my life – no pattern or instructions, just time to play and think of what I want it to be.