The Wisdom of David Copperfield
I never trusted myself with books. Not that I didn't love them. I just reverenced them too much to handle them without guidance. I hungered for the day I could read the books my siblings read, like Homer, Hegel, C. S. Lewis, and Dickens. Yes, Dickens most of all. I had heard great things about David Copperfield, and my mother frequently compared me to Mr. Dick. She would say, “Mr. Dick, we need your advice,” and I offered it. She and my oldest sister would smile and wink at each other and say, “She'll love Dickens.”
At this time, I was only 8 or 9, and my mom advised me to put Dickens off for a couple years. Meanwhile, she presented me with a dozen or so books suitable for my present needs. We would trot into the bathroom together to study the bookshelf. I had memorized the titles and authors of each book. That is a benefit of keeping a bookshelf in the bathroom. Mom crinkled her nose and pulled out a book. “Oh, this is a wonderful book!” She grabbed the book up to her nose and gave it a hard sniff. She loves the smell of books, unless they smell musty. Then she ditches them.
“Smell it.” and she'd rammed the book in my face.
I suggested, “It smells good?”
“Don't you love that smell?”
“Oooh, I love that smell!”
I hadn't realized I loved it until Mom said I did, but now I really did.
Then out she'd pull another book, and another, until I had a lap full of “wonderful,” “excellent,” “must read” books. I felt overwhelmed with love—love for books, love for Mom, and love for Mom's love for books.
“You look them over. Take your time. I'm sure you'll make the right decision.” and up she'd go to make dinner. I didn't know where to begin, so I just tried to read them all. I hope to someday read the ones I missed.
Then, one fine day, a couple of years later, Mom pulled out David Copperfield.
“This is a long, hard book, but it's excellent. You could give it a try.”
“Really? I'm not too young for it?”
“No, I think it would be good for you now.”
“Aaaah” I gasped.
So I hammered away at David Copperfield for the next year, slowing down for the boring parts, and inhaling the exciting parts. Once I'd finished it, I realized, on looking back, that everything had a reason. That delighted and fascinated me. I saw that every character played a most necessary role in David Copperfield's life, and everything that happened to him had lasting consequences. I now regretted calling any part boring. What had seemed insignificant, I now saw to be most meaningful. This seemed true of life. I could think of numerous events and people, who, at the time, seemed unnoteworthy but had actually effected me greatly, and still were. Take the way Mom showed me books. If she hadn't been my mother, if she hadn't loved me, if she hadn't home schooled me, I might never have loved books the way I now did. Mom's habit of smelling books might even have disgusted me.
There are so many other excellent books I must read, but I do hope to someday reread David Copperfield. Next time, I will pay meticulous attention to every thing, even the boring parts. Then I shall do the same with my life. Looking back, I shall rewrite the frustrations, joys, and ordinaries as meaningful, significant, and most necessary. I shall delight in the knowledge that everything I do, and everything I will do, has its reason—a reason hidden to me then, but revealed to me now.