There was a boy, once. He was eight years old, an athlete, tall for his age, and he thought himself a little math wizard. He loved numbers, loved solving things and figuring them out. He loved to draw, too, and build things, crafting worlds from blocks and Legos and G.I.Joes (and odd combinations of all three). He liked stories, too. But he didn't like to read. He drew a line in the imaginary sand and would not cross.
There was a mother, too, of a small and bookish family. They all loved to read, all except the boy. And so she nagged, pleasantly but persistently. She nagged with the speed of the tortoise, slow and sure. If the boy had read more he would have known that the tortoise always won the race. But he resisted, holding off, holding off...
The mother kept nagging. She nagged and nagged... until finally the boy capitulated and the mother took him to the library where they withdrew a book called The Hobbit by a writer with many initials in his name.
The boy read the book.
He read it with the slow acceleration of a train, building a momentum that couldn't be halted. He finished the story, exulting, needing more. He was changed, irrevocably changed. The mother took him back to the Library to get new books by the man with many initials in his name and the boy soon found these books were even better than the first one. He now thought of the library as his friend. A romance commenced, between the boy and the books by the author with many initials in his name. He was horribly promiscuous and unfaithful, the boy, falling endlessly for other books, other stories. And yet in the end he always came back to his first love, unable to leave it completely.
It was with him forever, and that was okay. The books had become part of him, engendering an obsession with story, with words, with worlds of the imagination. They opened his eyes, a little, so that he could see beyond the easy solutions of arithmetic. Wonder and awe were not parts of a geometric puzzle, but rather of a narrative that scooped him up and carried him outside himself. And wherever he went in those stories he carried a little bit of them back with him. Little nuggets, little moon rocks brought from the sky. Each one was like a little brick. They accumulated in rough piles, here and there, until eventually he had the idea to build something with them, just as he had with his wooden blocks and plastic Legos.
And the boy was happy, for now he could create his own wonderments, his own lopsided towers of awe. A mother's love had led to nagging, and nagging to a boy's love and a boy's gratitude.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
And now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
- J.R.R. Tolkien
So, folks, how about it? Did you have a first influence? What got you in the game? And who? Gimme some stories... (I'm still addicted, you see)
And thanks, Mom...