My little family gathered on the living room couch: The Hubs and myself hovering on the ends, both dogs scrambling for a place to snuggle or keep watch for the cat, and The Boy Wonder, decked out in his birthday crown from school, sitting center with a large box in his lap.
“It’s not a toy,” we warned. The Boy has been reminding us at regular intervals throughout the year how much he’s been wanting the Cloud Cuckoo Land Lego set, and we’ve been reminding him at equally regular intervals that he’s been saving his allowance for it.
I hadn’t even wrapped the cardboard box. The contents weren’t something I wanted to jostle, so instead I had covered the top with roughly sketched train tracks, roads, rivers, and buildings. We could have given him just the box, and he would have been happy.
The Boy lifted the flaps and accepted assistance to pull out the two gray rectangles. Sliding the plastic away, his eyes lit up and a delighted gasp escaped as he saw the first framed poster.
“Narnia! Look! There’s the witch’s castle! And the lamppost!”
Grudgingly, he let us set the first aside to unwrap the second. It proved worth the separation.
“A train!” He hadn’t needed to see more than smoke and stack to identify as much. Again, we could have stopped at that. Trains are a religion with this kid.
“Which train is it?” we prodded. The moment of recognition could have been spotted from space. His smile alone stretched into the next postal code.
“The Hogwarts Express!”
I sat beaming like an idiot as The Boy rattled off every detail of each image to his imaginary friends (some inhabitants of Narnia and Hogwarts themselves).
Not a toy. He didn’t care in the slightest. Books gave him that. A few sheets of paper covered in words and pictures. He was enchanted. Books gave him that. Nothing that lit up, made noise, or moved on its own. He was mesmerized. Books gave him that. We may have traded money for the retro-travel-esque posters, but the books were what gave him the thrill of another existence, the excitement of new ideas, and empathy for people he would never meet face to face. Books taught him to carry an entire story in his heart, an entire world inside his mind, and that both can be conjured with nothing more than a thought, a word, or a picture.
A very happy Banned Books Week, everyone.