When I was sick and lay abed
I had two pillows at my head
And all my toys beside me lay
to keep me happy all the day…
The Land of Counterpane by Robert Louis Stevenson
My father read to me as a small child and if I close my eyes I am transported back to him reading in his deep, rich voice the poem, “The Land of Counterpane” from Robert Louis Stevenson’s, “A Child’s Garden of Verses”. The comfort of the moment still resonates so many years later; the smell of pipe tobacco; the feel of his arm around me; the rhythm of the words.
The poem was published in 1885 and is older than my father and I together, he is 90 and I am 53. The book he read from was old and came from his childhood home. It smelled in that way that old books do, it was falling apart and my father had patched it many times. The way he handled it when he read to me spoke of respect and care. The poem itself played with my imagination, as I was often sick as a child and spent a great deal of time in bed. Books were a window to a world beyond the bed I lay in and I saw myself in the last line of the poem:
I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.
My father read many books to me but that is the one that stays with me.
I love to read and I am a voracious reader to the point that sometimes I come across a book that I suspect I may have read but am unsure until I begin to read it. There are books I purposely reread and others I appreciate reading but despise. Books introduced me to people I would never have met, took me to places I will never see, and told me of events previously unknown. I have cried and laughed and cowered under the covers all from a good book.
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