I've always loved the written word. I can remember how proud I felt the first time I read a book to myself. Childhood summers offered endless amounts of time devoted to books, amidst playdates and outdoor activities. At times I would be so consumed with a book, propped up on my favorite couch, that my parents would remind me to go outside to get some fresh air. How many times would I take my book with me and read on a swing or sprawled across an inflated inner tube? As any dedicated reader will understand, I could not tear myself away from the characters, from wondering how a story would unfold, and from wondering what I would do in those circumstances.
My childhood best friend Ruth and I, along with our mothers, headed to the bookstore on the appointed day. It was a cold winter day. The line was long but at least it didn't stretch outside. There was a palpable feeling of excitement in the air. Ruth and I were among our kind. I remember wondering what to say to Ms. L'Engle. What do you say to the author you most admire?
And then suddenly, the excitement cut short. The book signing had gone over its allotted time. Madeleine would have to leave. Our books would not get signed. I felt crushed! We stood in the bookstore, close enough to see her at the table, and yet not close enough.
Then the measure of the woman shined through. Madeleine L'Engle personally greeted everyone left in line. I remember her kind eyes, her smile, my awe that I was face to face with the very person who had written my favorite book. I hoped that if I ever managed to write my own book, I could be the kind of author and person that she was.
The bookstore manager collected Ruth's and my books. A few days later we picked them back up and found bookplates with L'Engle's signature tucked inside. I treasure the book to this day.