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Where We Live: Getting lost in the pages

By Marta Gouger

Occasionally someone asks what I fear most as I grow old.

We all have the same concern that we will outlive our money or we won’t be able to afford health insurance.

But I hope I never lose my eyesight or my ability to turn pages.

It’s time to stand and confess: Ever since I was in elementary school I have been addicted to reading.

And I know I am not the only one.

The struggle is real to tear myself away to turn out the light, get off my butt and go outside or fold the laundry.

It was in Walnutport Elementary School that I started grabbing every book I could.

As I got a bit older I’d walk over the bridge from Canal Street in Walnutport to the Slatington library and check out books on a regular basis. I remember checking out student level biographies and whatever else I could.

When we moved to Palmerton just before fifth grade, the love affair grew.

My mom bought me a hard copy of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” That was the first introduction to Sherlock Holmes. She followed with Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”

That opened a whole new world to crime and espionage.

My world really expanded though when my mom and my Aunt Judy allowed me to accompany them on trips to Krex’s News Agency. For those who are not old enough to remember, the store was on the corner of Delaware and Third and offered racks of magazines and paperbacks. And penny candy.

Getting a new paperback and some penny candy was like a trip to Disney World.

My aunt and uncle moved from Pennsville to Mountville and she began “The Collection.”

In their downstairs family room, she had bookcase after bookcase filled with books from floor to ceiling.

And she had a pool.

There was no better place to spend a week or two every summer. We’d sit by the pool and read. Occasionally we’d talk, but mostly we read books.

She died last week at age 79. She was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke just a few days later.

I cherish those summers. She was the one who got me started drinking hot tea. I think she drank Salada, but Lipton somehow became my favorite.

Every time I visited, she’d send me home with a bag of books. My parting gift wasn’t the books; it was a lifetime of reading.

When the pandemic hit, I had enough books under the bed to keep me going for months.

Our library, Western Pocono Community Library, would bring books to the car if you called ahead, so I was able to do that several times.

These days I mostly download digital books through the library site. The only frustration is that if I start on a series I might have to go to the library to get one of the volumes if it’s not available online. Pierce’s Used Book store is another option. I have to finish the series before moving on.

I love sightseeing, but the best vacations are still the ones where I can relax and read.

The best books let you get lost in the characters, surprising you with the ending. The memorable books have characters that stay with you for days after you finish reading the book. They become real and you wonder where the story would have taken them if it had continued years later in their lives.

To honor my mom and my aunt I do what I can to pass on the reading tradition to my grandchildren. It is one that has served me well, and I hope it does the same for them.