My sister and I weren’t particularly close growing up, but she gave me the best gift I’ve ever received when I was four years old.
She taught me how to read.
My grandmother had already laid the foundation by teaching me the alphabet. One sunny August day I helped Grandma decorate her grade school classroom in a small Minnesota town. I was assigned the job of neatly taping each of the brightly colored letters to the walls while sounding them out.
A few weeks later, my bored eight year old sister Nancy peered at me through her blue rhinestone glasses and decided to lead me to the basement for my first reading lesson.
It was a rainy afternoon and the room smelled musty and of heavy spray starch.
Mom was ironing Dad’s shirts nearby while watching her favorite soap, “As the Word Turns” on our black and white console TV.
But she abruptly rushed over and turned down the volume when she saw us. Mom sensed something important was about to transpire.
“Now sit down, and pay attention,” Nancy instructed me as I slid into one of Grandma’s old cast iron and walnut desks saved from a prairie one room school house where Grandma had taught previously.
My sister then placed a dog eared copy of her favorite ‘Dick and Jane’ book into my hands.
We read the book together, with me slowly sounding out each syllable and every word on the pages.
In just an hour, Nancy deemed me a reader. Just like her!
And I still am a reader today.
My sister now lives in Colorado Springs, but we communicate frequently. Our calls and emails are often full of book recommendations.
And on her visits back home to Minnesota, we always visit bookstores as unfortunately there are none left in her town.
On my recent birthday, I realized it’s been more than five decades since I received that special gift of reading from Nancy.
I just opened the gift she sent.
It’s a chain, with a tiny turquoise bound book hanging from it just waiting to be read.
It seems our love, and a mutual love for reading is a gift that still binds us today.