Birth of a Book Nerd

There was a time in my life when I tried to be a “normal” kid. This wasn’t an easy thing to do considering my father had three wives in four years, and none of them would have won “Mother-of-the-Year”.

Just before my sisters and I went into foster care, I signed up with the city to be a cheerleader for the pony league football team. I was eleven years old and had just started into the sixth grade. I was the only one without saddle oxfords. Already, I was different.

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Our team, The Moose Club team, did very well and we eventually got to the State Championship. Yay! Go Moose. The whole community of my small town, LaGrange, GA, got behind us. There were signs everywhere cheering us on.

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Then came the big day. We were up against Savannah, a school team. An enormous crowd showed up at the city stadium to watch the game and offer their support. The Savannah buses pulled up and a marching band came off first playing triumphant music followed by a team of boys in black and gold that made our team in blue and white look like midgets.

We knew right away that we were NOT going to be victorious.

To make matters worse for me, a cheerleader on my own team slapped me in the chest with her pom-pom, shattering my beautiful white mum corsage. All of the petals scattered and fell to the ground.  There wasn’t anything but a red, white and blue ribbon to save.

When we went over to do our H.E.L.L.O. cheer, this same cheerleader slapped me in the face with her pom-poms in the middle of our cheer. I retaliated by smacking her back across the chest, likewise destroying her flower.

When we got back to our side, the cheerleading coach benched both of us for the rest of the game…which we lost. Bad.

The following school day, my sisters and I were seated on the school steps awaiting our step-mother to pick us up. The team quarterback, Jeff McHugh, was teasing me in front of a large group of boys and spit a massive loogie into the back of my hair. Again, I retaliated by jumping up and kicking him hard in the crotch. That got us both sent to the Principal’s office.

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My dad showed up to defend me. I was really proud of that. But I didn’t score any points with the guys.

After a summer of riding bikes around the neighborhood and falling “in love” with a boy down the street, I started to the all-girls junior high school. I was done with competitive sports. While my sisters and friends practiced band, drill team, tumbling, and so on…I was seated in the back of the library reading books.

I would lose myself in the stories and drift off to faraway places and meet interesting people. It was my escape from reality.

The library had a set of National Geographics that covered the entire back wall. A lady had donated it to the school and it had every copy from 1915 to 1972. I traveled all over the world through those magazines and was certain, with all of the Jacques Cousteau articles; I would someday be an oceanic photographer.

That never came to pass, but I had found refuge in those magazines and forevermore reading was my favorite pastime. I was no longer interested in competitive sports or being popular, just give me a book.

During foster care, traveling through four schools in three years in four different towns, I always had my stories to keep me company. My familiars. My love for reading and writing grew out of those days spent in the library.

Thus, a book nerd was born!

My reading and writing skills were well developed by high school and I received much encouragement, from dear teachers and fellow students, to pursue those talents.

Are you a book nerd?

How did you develop your interest in reading and writing?

Have competitive sports ever been your thing?

Were you a popular kid in school?

54 thoughts on “Birth of a Book Nerd

  1. Books got me through some pretty tough times, too. I was not allowed to participate in sports or cheerleading and as such was not a popular kid. My father had been crippled by polio as a child and was terrified his own children would have some sort of sports injury that would affect their mobity. I was also spit at by kids for being different.

    • It’s a shame what kids will do. I’m not religious, but the concept of original sin is not that far out of mind. Kids can be brutal.

      I’m glad there were books to keep me company.

  2. I think my love of books and reading and naturally being more of a loner led to my lack of team spirit or wanting to belong to a group rather than it happening the other way around for me. Besides, I was a speed swimmer and always competed in the “individual” races, never as part of a relay team. I didn’t even last long in synchronized swimming. Books have given me better memories, anyway.

  3. I was a geek and a nerd in school. I had friends, but we tended to be the book-reading, Dungeons and Dragons-playing kind. I had a few friends who were more popular, but for the most part, yeah, I was a nerd. I started reading books as early as I could because that’s what our family did. Both of my parents always read and us kids did too.

    Writing, however, came much later. I hated writing throughout school. Hated it. I only gained an interest in it as an adult, primarily after my father shared a couple of his manuscripts with me. But that was in my late teens and into my 20s. I still didn’t start writing my own fiction until my late 30’s.

    • You corked late writing like I did. I would have started earlier, but life got in the way. It was good your parents instilled a love of reading in you at an early age. All parents could do their kids a favor by encouraging reading. I don’t know what I would have done in high school if I had not had a love of books and reading. I never had many friends. Going from town to town and school to school probably had a lot to do with that. I’ve always been a geek and a bit of a loner…at least until I got divorced at thirty-six and found myself in a nudist resort in Florida.

  4. I do like reading and writing, so I’m a book nerd. Always have been. One of the main catalysts might have been these reading contests that my elementary school had. The more books you read in a certain amount of time, the more coupons for a free personal Pizza Hut pizza you would get. There was also a donation thing where people could give money for a cause if you read a certain amount or give a certain amount per book. People tended to go with the first for me because I’d sit down with a pile of books and spend an entire day reading to make sure I didn’t fail. Spent a lot of time at the library too.

    As far as competitive sports go, I was always involved from soccer to fencing. Never really excelled and I was more into the teamwork of the former. Honestly, it was a hobby that got me out of the house and exercise. That was really it. Also, not popular at all. I was teased for a while and then I was part of the scenery.

  5. I must have liked books in another life. I’d only been in Canada two years when I started first grade and didn’t know the language. Managed to learn the language in two years (youngsters do learn fast) and one day walked into the library. Wow. I had only one sibling at the time and chores I avoided when I could. You’d find me hidden somewhere reading. I loved the adventures between the covers. I haven’t looked back since. 😀

  6. Well, I guess we have ole Jeff to thank for the opportunity to read your wonderful writing, Susan. When I was in the third grade, I purchased a copy of Stuart Little with my allowance. I was hooked on books from then on. I feel sorry for people who don’t read anything other than the newspaper. Boy, are they missing out!

    • I can’t remember my first book but my first sci-fi was a book written by Ursula K. La Guin that a sci-fi writer in my grandma’s neighborhood Michael Bishop, gave me. It took me to fascinating places. I loved her imagination.

      Do they still print newspapers?

  7. What tumultuous years you had growing up–so much change. Luckily you turned to books as your escape rather than something that would be damaging to you.

    Yes, I’m a book nerd. From a young age, I would babysit full-time in the summer, but every weekend day, I’d bike to the library and check out dozens of books to tide me over. I’d spend all day Saturday and Sunday reading, and I’d read during the week while the kids napped. Well, I did check out an occasional soap opera during naptime sometimes as well. 😉

    • That’s a terrific way to pass the time babysitting. You were enterprising also, getting paid to read 🙂

      Were you one of us folk caught up in Luke and Laura’s escapades on General Hospital?

        • I haven’t watched any soaps in forty years. Night time drama, like Dallas, never interested me either. I stay on the Discovery and History channels. Unless I’m watching with my husband, then it’s comedy and crime. Peculiar that his interest is equally in both. Funny and criminal. He loves Tim Dorsey and Tim Baker for those reasons.

  8. I’m strange I guess. I started being a book nerd at a very young age. Then I became one of the popular kids, in a class cut up sort of way. I ran with a huge group of friends. After my school days, we all grew apart, and I returned to my former habits.

  9. It must be satisfying for to see how well the little book nerd has done for herself. 🙂 Books have always been my constant friend. I wasn’t popular or unpopular. I had my small group of friends, and I was happy. Still the happiest times were always spent with my nose in a book!

  10. Sorry, an important word dropped out of my post! I meant it must be satisfying for you to see how well the little book nerd has done for herself.

    You have a wonderful book (Red Clay & Roses) and another on the way. Kudos to you.

  11. I loved the book mobile. What a magical place. Of course that was in elementary and middle school. In High School I was popular, but was never into sports. After school let out I went to work.

    • High School was a better place for me. Even though I was new, I hung with a big crowd, but still didn’t get into sports. After school I tutored younger kids at the group home. That kept me from chores. It was fun helping them learn to read.

  12. As one of ten kids, we didn’t have a lot of extra toys (there wouln’t have been room!) but we all had bikes and library cards. And we figured out early that the limits on checkouts really don’t matter if you can share the books between so many siblings. So…a whole houseful of book nerds!

    • ha! I can see you doing that Chris…only you. I really can’t laugh though. My favorite books were the World Book Encyclopedias for years. I just loved that set of transparencies that showed all the human body systems.

  13. SK, I love this reminiscence. And I remember the old National Geographics! I am a terrible book nerd and always have been. It started when I was a baby crumpling and tearing magazine pages. So I never learned how to do cartwheels.

    • Ha! That’s funny. You cut your teeth on books. I was pretty athletic. water skied, ran relays…not much for cheerleader though. It seemed a popularity contest more than an athletic activity by the time I was in high school.

  14. I was always a reader, and I’m sure a nerd, as well. My parents were also readers. I have never had an interest in sports–playing or watching. Mu husband has to watch sports on TV by himself. I was never popular, but I’ve had a great life–and I still love to read! 🙂

  15. I’ve always been a book nerd however i have no idea how it started. I vaguely remember my Mum reading me The Magic Faraway Tree series when i was small, not even at school yet, and i thought it was absolutely wonderful. Maybe it started from there!

  16. I was never really a social kid, I mean I did stuff with friends, I just always preferred my own company 😀 Obviously that made me ‘weird’, but now I appreciate being able to snuggle down on my own and getting into a good book. I think writing and reading really can take my head out of the world, and sometimes that is exactly what I need when there is so much awful stuff going on!

  17. In the 1950s, sports were not popular for girls. Besides, I “ran like a girl.” I liked playing with the neighbor kids, and yet, my mom had to remind me to stop reading and “go out and play.” I had an easy childhood, so I didn’t retreat into books, but I always liked to read.

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