If you’ve ever seen Beauty and the Beast, and there’s the smallest soul of a reader inside you, you’ll recall Beast’s library in vivid recollection. Ceiling to floor, wall to wall, with a spinning ladder to take you around the whole room. That library was the vision upon which I saw my retirement dream: A small cottage on the top of a hilly Welsh mountain, wall to wall books, a garden brimming with home-tended vegetables, manure provided courtesy of the chickens fuelling my breakfasts every day. Even in the throes of young love, I could never really see myself anywhere but here, with anyone but me, come retirement days. It’s been way more than a decade since I’ve watched the Disney film, yet the other day when the song “Garcon” blasted from the compilation album I’d purchased for M, I saw the library as clearly as though I’d seen it yesterday. Now though, I can’t see hubby taking to the idea of life on a rural Welsh mountain with sheep as our neighbours and friends. But while I may not get that cottage, there’s still a chance I’ll get the room full of books.
Each time we go to the UK, it’s bookstores my feet skip to first; or if G gets his way and we’re in Tesco first, the book section even before the cereal isle. Each time we return, our hand luggage is weighed down with a selection of books with contents so varied you could never place its owner in an ID parade. And seemingly following in my footsteps, M doesn’t seem to mind what it is we are reading together, either; he’s as happy napping to sleep to the sound of my voice reading maudlin Shakespearian prose as he is to the whistle of the classic Goodnight Moon. Seeing his interest in books and reading and language delights me. And at the same time, it worries me, for I fear our ability to nurture this here as we could in the UK.
When you live somewhere long enough you take many things for granted. I often forget how beautiful the view of the sea from our window, or how precious the ability to buy a kilo of fresh cherries still warm from the tree until visitors point it back out to me. Living somewhere as a child, it’s not so much you just take things for granted; you simply don’t notice them at all. As a child, summer holidays, 6 weeks long mostly accompanied with rain, would be mostly spent in and out of the back garden, come rain or come shine, or at an arts and craft event of some sort. Local libraries in the UK offer the most magical of services to a community, but it’s not until you don’t have that service around that you notice that it’s gone. In rare moments when I could imagine a life with kids in it, I pictured I’d entertain my kids in much the same way; in children’s sections of libraries where they could flop into cushions and disappear into worlds beyond the words of the page. I pictured kitchen tables covered in glitter and glue and kids rooms stuffed full with literature, to be read, to be listened to, to be treasured.
Then I had children here, and the bubble burst somewhat. I appreciate my childhood more now.
Turkey is not a country of bookworms. Libraries are few and far between and bookstores, or craft stores, don’t hold half the appeal. Kids books, for babies and toddlers, are very hard to find – the hardbacked cardboard kind a child can read and enjoy by themselves; books for preschoolers 3-5 are limited in vision and books for the older kids are the popular culture books. Of course, you can find some books of the kind that I envisaged, but not many and this frustrated me and poses a dilemma, because the books now stuffed in our hand luggage are kids books written in English. M may be building up a nice collection of worlds he can sink into, but they’re all in one language, and he’s a bilingual kiddo. If I don’t buy the books, I know I am letting him down; if I do buy all the books, am I letting him down also? When I buy a set of alphabet magnets for the fridge but it’s missing the ş and the ğ, am I doing the wrong thing there too? Is it enough to instil a love for books, for knowledge, for escapism, for debate and multi-thought in one language – especially if it’s the opposite language to the one he’ll be schooled in someday? Does everything we do, language wise, have to balance to be fair to our son?
I’m not sure of the answer to these questions but I am sure Belle never had this problem when she fell in love with her G.