Neal Draws Comics: That was then, this is now
I remember as a kid the way I would line up all of my stuffed animals in my bed with me. Of course I had a favorite, but I wasn’t going to let any of the others know that. That would just be cruel. I’m sure my parents felt much the same about all of their kids. Or maybe they disliked us all equally, it’s hard to say. (I joke, mom, I joke.)
As I look around my room now, books have replaced raggedy teddy bears and bunnies with spittle-soaked ears. Lots and lots of books. As with the stuffed animals, my favorites are ripped and dog-eared from years of use. The accumulation of caresses — mostly gentle, but sometimes furious at the suspenseful parts — have left smudged pages and polished spots on covers. And there are a few with broken bindings where they impacted walls, only to be contritely scooped up and finished.
And there’s the food. I know, it’s gross. But there are some books on my shelf that I can open and recall very distinctly what I was eating at the time, because there are still little crumbs in the binding. You try to shake them out, but sometimes there’s nothing you can do, at least until you get home and start excavating with an ice pick. And by then you’ve forgotten. Hello, Wheat Thins on page 127. Nice to see you again, balsamic vinegar drops on page 273. We can see similar signs, usually crusty applesauce or prune juice stains, on the disease-ridden bunny that my toddler drags around with her everywhere. Seriously, that bunny looks like it has Ebola.
Books are my comfort objects now. I rarely go anywhere without a book tucked under one arm or stashed in my backpack. With a good book on hand, suddenly every traumatic event evens out a little. Car broke down on the freeway? No biggie. I’ll just read All the Pretty Horses until the tow truck gets here. Another snow delay at the airport? That’s another hundred pages of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Just saw someone flattened by a falling airplane engine? Hey, life happens. Back to Harry Potter.
And when I go to sleep at night, there’s nothing more comforting than my huge extended family of books watching over me, encircling me, imbuing my sleep with the wild ruminations and explorations of the greatest and craziest. Sometimes there are nightmares (Kafka, I’m looking at you), but the dreams make everything else worth it.