Don't you just love those words? Everyone loves a good story and I'm no exception. In my youth I was a voracious reader, sometimes devouring three to four books in one week! Unfortunately I have not kept up the pace in recent years. The twin responsibilities of family and career take the lion's share of my time these days. Still, I enjoy the occasional bookstore browse.
Several weeks ago I was at the local B&N with my daughter, who it seems has inherited the love-of-reading gene. Being that she is now thirteen and considered old enough to be allowed small helpings of independence, I left her in the Young Adults section and proceeded to wander around on my own. (A rare treat.) But I found myself faced with a dilemma: what book to choose?
I wasn't really in the mood for fiction, even though there were many interesting titles offered. A new cookbook? Nah. I needed something I could really sink my teeth into! I found myself in the U.S. Travel section. . . hmmm, any interesting new books about WDW? Not really. Now that I've discovered such fantastic WDW web sites such as those listed in the margin*, I find that I get more current information on line. I don't think that I've purchased an actual travel guide to my favorite place in several years. Let's face it: WDW travel guides are for newbies! (Tosses head condescendingly.) ~ Just kidding ~
Next to the travel guides was a section containing travel narratives. Now that was an idea! I love reading WDW trip reports on line; perhaps there was something like that in book form.
Nope. The travel narratives were all about more exotic places: Tuscany, China, South Africa. . . places I would probably never visit and, quite honestly, have no burning desire to. Okay, well sure, if I somehow won an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris, would I turn it down? Definitely not! But I'll admit I'd be much more interested in visiting the French version of Disneyland than in seeing the Eiffel Tower!
I considered that I might need to broaden my horizons. After all, armchair travel did interest me. Perhaps a collection of travel essays would suit my needs. . . a book that I could read in short spurts. . . a book that would be fun and interesting, but not put a major burden on my busy schedule the way a fat novel would. I selected The Best Women's Travel Writing 2009, from Traveler's Tales.
On my way to collect my daughter, another section of books caught my eye, a relatively new section for Special Needs. The familiar words, "Autism," "Asperger's," and "ADHD" were sprinkled among the titles. I have a sister who has worked for B&N for thirteen years; she tells me that when she started there were only a handful of such books for parents. Now they command an entire section of their own. . . a bittersweet commentary on the state of the current epidemic and the public's growing awareness of it. I browsed, but surprisingly, nothing interested me.
I am generally not fond of personal memoirs of parents still in the throes of denial, anger, and depression about their child's diagnosis. Been there, done that. I do not find it entertaining to revisit what was a very dark time of grieving in my own life. Billy was diagnosed with PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) eight years ago and then "officially" diagnosed with Autism two years later. While I still have moments of fleeting despair about my son's condition, time has helped to heal the wound and I've come to a point where I am at relative peace with it.
Neither am I fond of reading books by parents who claim to have found "a cure" for their child's Autism. Don't get me wrong, there are many valuable therapies both nutritional and behavioral that can greatly improve some of the most distressing symptoms of autism. Been there, done that, too. I'm simply not interested in hearing how someone else's child has been visited by a miracle. You know the books I'm talking about. . . "I've conquered my son's autism, and now you can, too!" Great, there's nothing we parents need like a little more guilt. Gee, if only I was more of a warrior-mother, my son would be normal again! Needless to say, I steered clear of those.
I've prayed fervently that my son be completely cured and despite trying a number of therapies, diets, vitamin supplements, and prescription medications in the hope that he would be relieved of this burden, I've received an answer. For the time being at least, the answer is no. I don't pretend to like it or to understand why Billy is the way he is, but I do believe that it is for a reason. I have to. . . I think I'd go crazy otherwise.
Back to the bookshelves. There was one book that looked interesting; there was a picture of a boy on a horse, one arm reaching upward and his father sitting behind him, looking up at the sky triumphantly. I read the notes on the book's jacket. The shock at hearing the diagnosis. . . check. The frantic and unsuccessful search for a cure. . . check. The pilgrimage to visit a shaman of the reindeer people who eventually would cure him. . . um, I'm sorry, I just can't relate to that. I'm happy for him and all that but, well, the book just seemed a bit too New-Age for my taste. I sighed.
Just as I was about to leave the stacks, a small, non-imposing paperback with the familiar puzzle-piece design on the cover caught my eye. A Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Autism: Stories of Hope and Everyday Success. Ah-ha. Another little essay collection. This might do. I flipped through the pages and read a bit. . . some stories were funny, others were a little sad. All were what you would call "heartwarming," but the most important aspect of these tales was that they were positive and inspiring without producing a smidgen of guilt. I decided to take this one, too. I ran to catch up with my daughter who had selected the latest in a glut of teen vampire novels.
It took a few days, but I finished most of both books. Each was enjoyable in it's own way. . . the travel essays describing physical journeys and the "comfort" essays discussing journeys of the spirit. If only those two genres could be combined; what a fabulous book that would make! If only someone would write a book like that. . .
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