It’s kind of like the Velveteen Rabbit, but for books.
“When a child loves you for a long, long time… you become Real… Once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Well, the concept’s much the same for stories. Time turns the fantasy into something you don’t remember as when you first read it. I tried revisiting a childhood favorite, only to find that it just didn’t have the same magic as it did before.
Don’t get me wrong, I still remember all the nights I’d lost to sleep to read the next story. I even remember some of the lasting images that stayed with me in my imagination. Tales of scrawny young heroes climbing up magic trees, nearly getting devoured by rocks, or anointing young heroes to live on after them. I remember, most importantly, how the books made me feel.
Funny how memories work, isn’t it? You remember how you feel more than you remember the actual order of events properly.
But, I opened the book and… nothing. If the spell had been in there, then it had already been cast. It was just a book. Words on paper. Maybe… maybe my memory had lied.
But would that stop me from listing that book amongst my top favorites, should anybody ask? Would it cause me to forget the magic? I don’t forget them, the other things.
Like the magic of Scholastic book fairs and trying to decide whether you’d sacrifice your spending money on erasers that looked like fruit, fuzzy pens, or a mysterious novel that you could hold between your hands and wonder what stories it’d hold. (Do they still do Scholastic Book Fairs? I hope they do. They are part of what made me want to write so badly growing older).
Just because the book didn’t hold the same magic, well… It’s not like the book changed any. The words didn’t rearrange themselves overnight. No, in fact, the spell was cast. Those words were sewn beneath my skin. The story was humming through my blood, more powerful than any simple cantrip.
Stories, in the end, make us who we are. Even if you can’t capture the same moment in time that you experienced that book, you can still thank it for what it was. And what it helped you become.