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Twenty Years Ago Today…

June 26, 2017

I’m trying to remember who I was then. Ten years old and shy and quiet, a little strange but not yet bullied the way I would be later. Late June twenty years ago, it would have been the last few days of primary school, and I don’t have the slightest recollection how I felt about that.

A gardener already, and a voracious reader, mostly of Thomas Brezina.

There is one thing I remember from those days, actually: our English teacher telling us that few of her classes got this far, and giving us some extra worksheets about Winnie the Witch, where I discovered that unlike the rest of the class, I already knew the word “witch” (and probably some others) because of a picture book I had. (Because unlike the rest of the class, I had friends whose mother was American and gave me English picture books for birthdays and such – which sure provided a challenge for my parents, neither of whom are good at English!)

I also learned some highly useful words such as “wand” from Winnie the Witch.

Of course, back then I didn’t know how useful they would be. How was I to know in a faraway country, a book was being published that day that would end up being so important to me?

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A book that did not drop into my life for another four years, that I tried to resist and that drew me in after all, with that magic that books have?

A book that I fought my way through with the help of a tattered dictionary as old as my father, a book that taught me so many words that I now use without thinking twice about them?

A book that opened the gates to a wider world for me, by undoing the damage of an incompetent teacher, by reminding me that English was a language for communication and fun first, and a school subject second. A book that taught me the joys of teaching myself more, of using English because I could and not because I had to. And if I had not learned that, how differently would my life have gone? Would I even be here, blogging in English? Would I be here blogging at all?

And it opened so many other gates for me, it built a bridge between my little island of weird interests and the rest of the world, it gave us a common ground at last.

And I wish I could end this with the fanart I drew, once upon a time, but I have no clue where it would be. And I’m certainly not ending this with any of the fanfiction I wrote, once upon a time, because a third of it is crackfic written long before I even knew there was a word for it, or that fanfiction was a thing in general, collaborations with the Carpenter Brother and our crazy friend Bone-Hard, and a third of it is the classic Mary Sue thing, which had its time and place when I was fourteen, but I’m not even going to look for it now, and the remaining third was good, but will probably always remain unfinished, and so looking at it makes me sad.

So, just… happy 20th birthday to those dear old fictional friends. I don’t spend as much time with them as I used to, but they’ll always have a place in my heart.

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