If you are fortunate enough to have one of my new business cards, you may have noticed on the back of it there is a question. That question is “What is your favorite book?”. When Dear Daughter was designing our business cards, she thought it would be a fun tidbit to include and help us connect with people. So she asked me.
“Just ONE book?” I asked.
“Just one,”she replied.
Wow. Okay. That is really tough. I mean, Little House on the Prairie anyone? A Wrinkle In Time? Lord of the Rings? All Creatures Great and Small? Cheaper by the Dozen? And let’s not overlook all those glorious Jane Austen books! What a pickle I found myself in. There was no way I could pull out one winner from all the hundreds (thousands?) of books that I have read.
So, I decided to go back in time to the very first book that I remember loving. First Grade. Mrs. Miller. My Father’s Dragon. Funny story here. At least my mom always thought it was really funny.
While my mom’s job was to hold down the fort, it was my dad’s job to work as a conductor on freight trains. Working on the railroad meant that Dad was on call 24/7. He worked on call at all hours and would be gone a few days at a time. His crew would take a train from one location to another and then have a mandatory 8-hour layover to get rested up before working another train back home.
Somewhere along in the early 1970’s Dad worked on the “Buffalo Run”. He would hop on a train in Meadville, PA (home) and end up in Buffalo, NY. He would then have his layover to rest up so he could work another train back to Meadville. After he got some sleep, he would find things to do until his next shift. I remember him talking about a little restaurant that had great pies. (Dad LOVES pie.)Even better than that, he found a little book store. I don’t know if he did it every trip–I highly doubt it–but he would often bring me back either a book or a record for my little orange portable record player. (Oh I loved that thing, but that is another story…)
Now, listen, I was the youngest of three girls. That translates to “you don’t get many things just for you”. I don’t know if this little book store stocked new or used or both, but everything Dad brought home to me was NEW, if you know what I mean. One day he came home with a book that has been one of my most treasured items. My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. I was captivated. I’m not sure if my love of reading had already been ignited or if this little gem of a book was the ignition.
For our school pictures that year, someone had the ingenious idea to ask the students to bring in their favorite object and get their school year photo taken with that item. Other kids brought in dolls and trucks and stuffed animals. Guess what I brought? My favorite book! My Father’s Dragon. And don’t I look just as pleased as punch with myself?
In case you don’t know me very well, there is a poorly kept family secret you should know: I was not and am not the most compliant child in the family. (No snickering from the Sibling Gallery.) I did tend to challenge authority (and maybe I still do). Remember when I said that Mom always thought this was a funny story? Here is the funny part. I always thought it was the perfect title for a book. Mom always thought it was a perfect title for me. Daddy’s Little Dragon.
The Rest of The Story…
I read this blog to my dad last week.
“Did you ever think about why I picked that book for you?” he asked.
I hadn’t, really. I thought he had just bought his “Little Pumpkin” a special surprise.
“I thought of you immediately when I saw the title and I just had to get it. It described you perfectly.”
So I suppose it wasn’t just Mom that thought it was funny…I may be scarred for life.