When I was a young girl I wanted to follow my dad just about everywhere. In my overalls and baseball cap, I shadowed him camping, hiking, ice fishing, fly fishing, lake fishing, river fishing…sensing a theme here? Yet, the greatest places my dad ever took me were inside a book.
My dad was passionate about reading and he passed on to me a voracious hunger to explore books, to read for the pure joy of it. More importantly, he taught me to search the pages of books for answers to questions I might have.
These days, searching pages usually means on the web, but my sweet memories are of diving into physical books and checking them out from the library. I remember the feel of walking into the building with my dad, stepping out from the heat of a summer day into the cool, hushed and serene environment of the library.
I can still feel the excitement of walking up to the large cabinets located in the middle of the library to open long, narrow drawers and flip through the hundreds of index cards to search for a new, engaging read. I enjoyed how the small colored dots on the spine of each book could quickly guide you to certain genres and categories. At my hometown library, a yellow dot meant it was a mystery novel. As a child, I steadily worked my way through the shelves simply checking out each and every yellow dot available.
And I loved the physical interaction of the librarian taking my paper-thin library card, then removing the index card from the book and writing my name on it, and finally stamping the return date on the card glued into the back of the book. It’s just not the same now with automated scanners. The only time you connect with the librarian at the front desk is when you owe a fine.
I can’t count the times I went to the library with my dad. He would head to his area and I was free to roam and read in mine for hours on end. On many occasions we would stay until the librarian began shutting down the lights to lock up. One time, my dad was so engrossed in a book that when the library closed, he walked out, sat down under a street light in the parking lot and kept on reading. I followed suit.
Outside, on warm summer nights, my favorite time with my dad was having him read out loud the “Lord of The Rings” Trilogy. He would read until the light would almost disappear and I would ask for more. I have a great photo of my dad from the 1970’s, sitting under a tree on a campout expedition, reading a J.R.R. Tolkien book.
By the 4th grade, I was reading the Hobbit on my own for the 2nd time. I still remember my teacher’s raised eyebrows when I brought it in for my book report. (I don’t think she believed I had read it myself.) She drilled me with questions and I was at the ready with passionate replies.
I loved my elementary school library and adored the school librarian, Ms. Smith. She was an exotic beauty to me, with her dark black feathered hair, wearing full skirts and chunky cool turquoise belts. I thought she had the best job in the world being surrounded by books every day. And don’t get me started on the Book Mobile. A mini library that would drive right by my house…heaven!
In my early teen years, my parents split and my ability to connect with my dad took a dramatic shift. We didn’t see much of each other. At 18, I moved away from Utah to California.
My dad thrived on challenging, in-depth conversations. While his questions always forced me to think more deeply, it could also be overwhelming when we were not seeing eye to eye. It took some years as an adult to let go of the past and find ways to understand each other again. We enjoyed discussing books, life, travel and annoying other people as we both repeated lines from one of his favorite movies, Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.”
We may have had our differences, yet we shared many similarities. I am so grateful that my dad and I had the chance to reconnect. He passed away suddenly, 15 years ago today on Feb 26, at the age of 57.
One regret I have is not traveling with my dad when he invited me to join him and my stepmom Karen to tour England and Scotland on a trip to trace some of his ancestry. At the time, I did not think I could afford to do it. Sadly, I realize the high price I paid missing out on the memories that trip would have afforded me for a lifetime.
That thought is still with me as I travel with my boys. And I am happy to be passing on to them the love of books that my dad gave to me. Reading books together as a family brings me much happiness, especially when we can tie the books into travel adventures (See Dolphins, Peter).
One of those adventures happened today on New Zealand’s north island, as we celebrated another book we had read together, “The Hobbit.”
Yes, it is totally touristy to visit Hobbiton in New Zealand and I loved every minute of it. Because I was transported back in time and an incredible memory with my dad was made tangible. (I wish my dad could have seen the movies. What wonderful conversations we would have had about the Trilogy coming to life!)
My boys loved seeing the movie set and can’t wait to read the books and watch the “Lord of The Rings” movies, which I intend to make into spectacular marathon experience for us all when the time is right.
As we were ending the 2-hour journey around Hobbiton, I let my family and tour group go on ahead. I held back to have a moment on my own, which can be near impossible with the amount of people taking the tour.
With no one on the trail, I took one last photo of the enormous tree on the hill and imagined my dad reading to me. I was a young girl once again, before the divorce, before the heartache, before the misunderstandings. I was Daddy’s little girl, the girl who simply wanted to go wherever my dad was adventuring, including getting lost in a book. I lay my head on his shoulder, and with the sun setting, giving off barely enough light to see, I whisper, “Please dad, keep reading.”
In loving memory of Grant Squires 1942-2000
“Dad, I miss your laugh the most.”
Enjoy photos from our time in Hobbiton –
Tags: books, dad, daddy daughter, family, ffr, fit family, fit family robinson, fit travel, Hobbit, hobbiton, hobbits, J.R.R. Tolkien, life of Brian, Lord of The Rings, my two sons, New Zealand, North Island, reading, Tamara Squires