Gather ’round, kiddos. It’s time for another installment of Tales of the World for Wee Cee!
When I was in elementary school, once a month the teacher would hand out a Scholastic Book Club order pamphlet. Printed on fragile bible paper in full color, these handouts detailed books, books, and more books that could be yours if your mom deigned to order them for you. Which my mom did. By the dozen. She was (and still is) awesome like that. My own take-home lesson from this post is to just get my kid the books she wants. Reading never hurts.
In third grade, Scholastic made a mistake and sent me a book I hadn’t ordered: Exploring the Titanic by Robert Ballard. Blessed Scholastic, blessed error. By the end of the day, I was wholly entrenched in the Titanic disaster and there was no chance I was going to send the book back. It was terrifying and majestic. It was at the bottom of the ocean. It was covered in rustcicles. It was called Unsinkable, and it sank on its maiden voyage. The irony blew my eight-year-old mind. Just think about it for a second and it will blow your mind too. It was called Unsinkable, and it sank on its maiden voyage. Come on. You can’t make this stuff up.
The pictures and photos in the book were eerie and frightening. Such grandeur and life were lost all because of an iceberg and foolhardiness. There was one picture of a porcelain doll head that was just laying on the ocean floor among all kinds of other debris. Its clothe body and hair had been eaten away years and years ago. It was creepy and bizarre.
Thus I became obsessed with the RMS Titanic at eight years old. I couldn’t resist the draw of this modern-day catastrophe of biblical proportions. I drew pictures in art class of the ship going down. I read A Night to Remember and was genuinely surprised when my classmates weren’t reading it too. I knew the history of the ship and could give you a hourly account of its descent into the abyss. I knew the number of rivets holding her hull together. I was fixated.
The thing that strikes me now is how morbid my fascination with the Titanic was. The movie was still years away from coming out, so it was not through the guise of a romantic narrative that my interest was sparked. That would have made sense for an eight-year-old girl. Instead, it was through the images of a slowly disintegrating passenger ship at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean that I became obsessed with human frailty and the remnants left behind when disaster strikes. I allowed myself to be engrossed in the events that brought her demise, and in a way that (perhaps) made it less likely that I’d ever have to go through such a catastrophe myself. Studying an event from the comforts of my own home disarmed it a little and made it an abstraction rather than a reality.
Becoming fixated on a person, an idea, or an event as a kid is a function of being young and having a safe, comfortable life. You can make time for a childhood obsession when you have moments to spare and brain matter open to devote to such superfluous things. The big, huge daunting world becomes a bit smaller and easier to digest when you can look at it through the lens of one small aspect of it. You can delve deep into the depths without leaving your parents’ side.
B and I often wonder what Miss C will latch onto when she gets older, what she will become intrigued with. Whatever it turns out to be, we will feed it. Childhood curiosity is delicious and we will cater to her whims, whatever they end up being.
Oh, how I loved getting my Scholastic book order. Like you, I’d get lost in the reading. But I never received a book by mistake. Now I feel cheated. :)
It was pretty much the only free thing I ever got, except for BOGO potato chips. But it’s something!
I LOVE this post. I was obsessed wtih Scholastic books (and got them for my son when he was in pre-3rd – now it’s ‘online’ — boo!) …but when I was young, I became obsessed with the story of Helen Keller. I read EVERYTHING and watched “The Miracle Worker” a million times. I taught myself the ASL alphabet with my friend (and then got a minor in college in Deaf Studies)…
I, too, am excited to see what my kid develops as his obession…so far it’s cars.
I posted this past week about being obessed with listening to music I’m rabid about at any given moment – so it’s funny that you have written about obsessions as well.
Ooooh! I will have to read your music post! I have zero lukewarm feelings about music too. I either love it and have it on heavy rotation, or I completely scorn it.
Here’s the link if you are interseted (I think it’s one of my weaker posts, but probably b/c it’s not really so humerous…
Haha funny you send it to me now because at this very second I am reading it! ;D
hee hee… I’m a little obsessed….
I LIVED for those book order forms!! I get so attached to books that I actually still have many books from my adolescence packed up in boxes (mainly Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins) with the hollow dream that maybe, one day, my future spawn will want to read about what it was like to care for children and go to high school before cell phones and the internet.
OK, I was just telling B the other day about BSC and how freaking obsessed I was with it. One summer, I think I read like 40 of them – that’s like an entire book a day! Oh my word, just thinking about it now, I am totally channeling wonderful feelings. Sitting in my chair in my childhood room, AC blasting, lemonade by my side, nowhere to be, just me and a stack of BSC books. Such good times.
Good times indeed!!
I love that a book captivated you so. My mother signed me up for a Book of the Month Club when I was about your age. Every month, a box of books arrived. I don’t remember any of them except for “The Travels of Monarch X.” I loved that book and it’s vivid descriptions of a monarch butterfly from egg to mature butterfly, including it’s migration. About a year ago, I decided to find it and I did! Thanks you, Internet. So, I re-read it. It’s boring to my adult mine. Now, I read a lot of fantasy; then I didn’t need the escape. What a great post.
Have you ever read The Once and Future King? I read it when I was a teenager and then again in college and then again a couple years ago. It is fantasy-ish and it is pretty much amazing no matter what stage of your life you’re in. If you haven’t read it, let me know and we can read it together!
Now that lead my high school’s book club, I get to give out the Scholastic Teen Reads order form. My readers eagerly snatch them up and completely ignore me as they pore over the selections. They don’t have much money, so they divvy up the books they want in order to read and swap with each other. The Scholastic legacy lives on!
That is so awesome to hear! It gives me a wonderful case of warm-fuzzies to hear about teenagers wanting to read. There is hope for us yet ;D
That’s awesome – I love Scholastic!
Love this post. What a great memory. Childhood curiosity is delicious, you’ve got that right. Miss C is so lucky to have both of you for parents, just the idea that you’re even thinking along these lines is super cool.
Thanks, Lisa! We always wonder what kind of person she will be. Even though we love her babyhood like crazy, we can’t wait for her to start talking so we can know what’s going on in her little brain.
I used to love getting Scholastic books! Teen had a Titanic obsession, too. We recently found all her books about it. :-)
Lucky gal! There are so many more books about it now than when I was a kid. I think I read the entry on the Titanic in our set of World Book Encyclopedias about 900 times.
I also loved Scholastic books. My favorite was the book fair. Browsing through all of the books was like finding a trunk full of treasures. Though it might sound a bit weird I loved the smell of new books and of the library!
Not weird at all! My best friend and I love love love going to used bookstores and just sticking our noses in the spines of the books. Books have the best aromas.
I lived for Scholastic Books order time. It was one of my absolute favorite things to do, pouring over the order form to see what books looked interesting. I too have always been fascinated by the Titanic, I don’t exactly know why. Except for the James Cameron movie, which I hated.
That movie came out when I was 15, and I hated it too. As if at 15 I needed something else to hate.
OHHHH Titanic. I watched that special James Cameron had on the History channel a few months ago. Actually, I DVRed it and watched it twice. Me and little kid you would have been buds.
I think we would have! All the Titanic hoopla was going on right when we brought Miss C home from the hospital so I managed to miss most of it. Meh. What can you do?
I thought you ordered that book! You were obsessed with it and Dad and I were a little concerned for a while. Anyway, it was good you had the opportunity to be a docent at the exhibit.
You asked me once if our family would have been in first class or steerage if we had been on the voyage. Knew what you were wondering what your fate would have been.
Anyway, told you I would have stayed in England or where ever we were and Dad could have gone. I get seasick…… And that’s the truth.
I remember asking you that! It was a very pressing issue for me at the time. I think you answered very wisely.
Cater away…life’s short! And they’re too precious not to…And you’ve inspired me not to be such a chintz with this upcoming school year’s Scholastic orders. My children thank you for this post (as do I!).
You should see if Scholastic is still selling that book and tell me if they are! That would be too much!
Bless you. I too share a love of Scholastic Books and The Titanic. I was obsessed. This too was before the movie came out. But I couldn’t get enough of all things Titanic. I went to this presentation when I was about 7 and got to hold a piece of coal that someone brought back from the Titanic. I remember my hand shook and I got tears in my eye. You can’t make this shit up. I lobbyed my mom for Christmas that year for a piece of coal from the Titanic (The irony of wanting coal for Christmas) I even sold my first story to co-workers of my mom of the tragedy of the titanic for $0.25. Still to this day I have a whole cabinet full of books, magazines, videos. haha, I’m glad I’m not the only one.
You are certainly not the only one! ;D Later when I was a teenager, I was a volunteer guide at a Titanic exhibit that came to my city one summer. It was absolute HEAVEN to be surrounded by all these artifacts recovered from the wreck. I loved it. The Titanic is endlessly interesting!
I was obsessed with a world atlas! I used to love looking at all the countries, and their flags and capitals. Maybe it was an early indicator that I’d grow up to love travel, although as a child it wouldn’t have occurred to me EVER that I could actually go to those places! We were a bit sheltered in the 70’s. :)
I never thought I’d ever actually get to go to all the places I had heard of when I was a kid! I think you’ll like this one: when my mom was a small girl, she thought England was on the moon.
I love this post for so many reasons! I don’t know if we had the Scholastic when I was a child but when I taught the fourth grade I handed them out loved them as much as my students did. Then of course I was the Mom who let my kiddies order from them. Re the Titanic obsession, Cameron at that time was obsessed with the Kennedy Family. I agree with you that having these interests in larger than life events or themes is a safe way for children to explore the world. You will have great fun with CeCe, sharing her interests with her.