I literally wore out a set of Little House on the Prairie books. I read the covers right off of them and kept going until they were in pieces.
I LOVED those books. And I wanted to be Laura. I wanted to wear a sleeping cap when I went to bed in a loft. I wanted a sunbonnet (even though Laura refused to wear hers). I wanted to ride to town in a wagon and write on a slate. Shoot, I already had the freckles!
Of course, I also wanted to be Heidi. I still have the copy of that book my mother read to me over and over and over again. I wanted to eat toasted cheese and go to the pasture with the goats to pick flowers. I wanted to sleep on a bed of sweet hay (I asked Dad if I could–we DID have a barn full of hay. He said no). I also kind of wanted the nice clothes Heidi got when she was packed off to the miserable city, but I felt like a bit of a turncoat for that.
I didn’t just read those stories when I was a child, I lived them. I opened the books and disappeared inside, traveling to the prairie or the alps as surely as if I’d had a plane ticket. Actually, those places were more than real because they lived in my heart.
As an adult, I don’t read books in the same way. Oh, I still enjoy reading stories, but I guess I’ve lost that feeling that what I’m reading could happen to me. The world of possibilities has narrowed as I’ve aged. I’m probably not going to head west in a covered wagon. I’m probably not going to help my best friend walk again.
But then again . . . when I write stories I get to flip through a world of possibilities and choose the ones that speak to me. The ones that touch my heart and stir my soul. I think that’s what I love best about being a writer. I create characters and then gift them with beauty, joy, hardship, and transformation.
And if I want one of them to sleep on a bed of sweet-smelling hay, there’s no one to tell me I can’t.
How about you? Which characters have you wanted to be?