I don’t know how she does it, but this girl knows exactly how I feel about books. Maybe she is a middle child, too? I don’t think you have to be a middle child to be an avid reader, but in my case, it certainly helped.
I was born smack dab in the middle of five children in the late 1960s when five was considered a smallish-sized family. I get along well with others, meaning I do not have to have my opponent’s verbal agreement that I have won an argument; it is enough for me to know that I am right. Though it is admittedly not my greatest strength, I can share my things and my personal space when called upon to do so. This is a reluctant skill born of the fact that I have never had my own bedroom in my entire life.
But perhaps the most significant aspect of being a middle child is that I am comfortable being alone. It is ironic, I know, but true, that middle children like me are invisible and are used to being left to our own devices. And thank goodness for this because when I was growing up, the devices that entertained me were wonderful. Unlike today’s “devices,” which are battery operated and have lights and sounds and bells and whistles, my devices were so much more than that, in a less-is-more kind of way. They lived at the library in the circular, rotating, wire book rack.
The round, wire book rack held the paperback books. And inside the paperback books were stories of first crushes and first kisses and first heartbreaks. There were stories in which young girls in far more tragic circumstances than I fell in love while fighting exotic diseases like lupus and scoliosis. This is not to diminish or romanticize these very real and debilitating conditions, but only to point out that the main characters never had acne and buckteeth, which, quite frankly, would have hit a little too close to home for me. The paperback books told juicy stories of love and betrayal and adventure and time travel. How wonderful for a middle child like me to be left alone with devices like these.
Fast forward a few decades and I am now a grown middle child with a middle child (along with the corresponding first and “baby-of-the-family” children) of my own. My resume reads like a piece of fiction; how could I have fit so many occupations into one lifetime? I was once a library page, a McDonald’s French fry maker, a cashier, a respite worker for the developmentally challenged, a receptionist at a muffler and brake shop, an apprentice optician, a bank teller, a loan processor, a human resources administrator, a day care operator, a private investigator, a newspaper reporter, a high school English teacher, and now a college writing instructor. And believe it or not, that’s not even close to a complete list.
One thing that has remained with me is my constant craving for alone time with a paperback book. They are engrossing and delicious and still carry me off to faraway places to solve mysteries, or fight battles, or dine with the Queen. Who can resist entertainment like this? I apologize in advance if you try to talk with me and I don’t respond. I have a book now and can no longer see or hear you. You might as well be an invisible middle child. Welcome to this wonderful club.