On a Saturday afternoon, in July, when I was six years old, my mom showed me a gigantic book; thirteen and a half inches tall by ten inches wide, and four fingers thick! It was the biggest book I have had in my hands! It was heavy, with a hard cover and a beautiful painting on the front. The best of all, it was mine only! Mom told me it was a great responsibility to take care of the book because it was a rare one.
I opened the book very carefully, and because of the size and weight of the book, I rested it on a coffee table and not in my lap. Also because of its importance, I couldn’t read it on my bed or in any other place that was not flat and with the hight for me to open and close it with care.
This book was a birthday present from mommy in a very special way because it wasn’t given as a wrapped present in the middle of a celebration; it was given with a special talk and importance. It was not a present to be carried from one place to another distractedly, and everybody in the family knew, it was a very respected book for special times to go over and over again through its pages; at least for many years. But times change.
Nowadays, this ginormous book of my infancy has been and is with me. Over the years it has been wear out; some pages are unstitched and un-glued, the edges of the pages had been bended here and there, the bright colors inside have faded somewhat. In my rebellious teens rascally, in one page, I made a cut out to repent after. Some other time another page had been tored but not yanked, so, it had preserved the story and the picture in there. Phew! Yes, it is a very old used book.
The first story in the book is The Ginny Of The River, an African tale. The first page shows a green aquatic monster holding a beautiful girl. The girl has long hair and lots of ornaments, she is covered with floating long blue robes and her hand is up trying to reach the surface. Her face is calmed but worried. The face of the monster is a mischievous one. This illustration covers almost all the page; close to the bottom is the title of the tale in very rich calligraphy. Following down, there are only six lines to the story. I remember my surprise when I browsed the book for the first time. I noticed that the second page was all words!
That was, and it is, a terrifying fact for a first grader. Curiosity and beauty won me over in those early days. I discovered the tales were typed in very good size letters and the entire page was framed with a wide strip. The wide strip was composed with a geometric pattern colored with several hues of blue, and yellow mottled diamonds in the center. So, I thought I could read it, because the beginning was super interesting and because of its beauty!
When little, I didn’t know anything about Africa or its tales; I went on reading. Wow! How fantastic it was to find out that a happy and promising start for a couple in love was going to be in peril, then destroyed, and have the feeling that everything was lost, to finally recover happiness at the very end. I kept reading.
The next story was about twin brothers and their adventures. Another tale was about magic turtles, one more was about mysterious cups of tea; some, about riches discovered at the center of the earth. Those other tales were from India, Arabia, China, and Europe.
I remember while reading the book for the first time, most of the stories were totally new, and that was difficult to say because by then, I knew everything about the classic tales of the time, like the ones from Perrault, The Grim brothers, Hans Christian Andersen and all that was in the Disney franchise.
The book was one of the best gifts for an impatient child avid for stories, and with a vivid imagination. Today, I can relate many of these fables, tales, traditional stories, legends, (define them in any way), writings to real life and real human behavior.
Thinking about why I treasure this book of tales that much: I have concluded that, it has truths hidden, aspects of real human behavior, and specially emotional traits. In vice versa, I consider that; there are other fantastic stories about humanity that are not considered fiction by definition although definitely they are so old that they seem like fables.
The thing is that there are real experiences that happen over and over again through the ages of time. But what is fiction, what is true, what is the truth, what is a memory?
What is a perfect collective memory? If there is such a thing, then, it will be interesting to address the team that put it together. You see everybody remembers differently, fortunately, there are measurable facts to anchor truth, or fiction, like in my book.
I can see today that this fabulous tome is a unique compilation. This is a remembrance of a lifetime. This printed volume of fantasy is on my desk and not hidden in a corner, for me it is as usable as any technical written work or best seller. If I could ask time to come back, I will go back to my infancy and I will say a thousand times, Thanks Mom for this wonderful gift!