There are all sorts of epiphanies: large and small, horrifying and gratifying, personal and impersonal. By their nature, each epiphany is a surprise. An unexpected moment of clarity or understanding.
I had an epiphany yesterday—a personal, joyful, gratifying revelation. It was so dear that I’d call it serendipitous. A serendipitous epiphany is the very best kind.
I was a strange little girl, quiet and good. My late mother insisted that I was always sweet. (That admission makes me cringe.) But I was a loner and a “watcher,” more comfortable on the sidelines until absolutely necessary and after I had figured everything out.
I read constantly. I’d check out the maximum number of library books (seven) every week. On vacation, my footwell of the station wagon was so full of books (I used Mom’s allotment too) that I had nowhere to put my feet. My dad complained that I never saw anything because my nose was stuck in a book.
I lost myself in books that alluded to a larger world than my house and church and school. I was convinced that my life was a springboard for greater things and adventures into the unknown. I sat under an elm every summer, reading and drawing and living in imaginary worlds, waiting to fly.
For years, I’ve searched for one particular book that I enjoyed as a child. I couldn’t remember why it made such an impression, but I needed to find it. I only knew a couple of words from the title. I searched and searched, then gave up for years. Then I’d search again.
A few weeks ago, I found it.
It arrived yesterday, and I sat down to read. The small chapter book is appropriate for a girl of five or six. I expected it to be charming and to put it on my bookshelf with Before the Muses (Akkadian Literature) and The Ancient Near East, Volume 1.
But I discovered that the thin volume without question set my course. In it, a little girl travels beyond everything she knows, encountering a camel (my favorite animal) and the Middle East (setting of so many of my manuscripts and focus of my graduate degree). She is adventurous and brave, questioning and honest, unflinching but slightly cautious. She is on a mysterious journey—her own international suspense like the books that I write.
I had forgotten everything about this book except three words of the title. But as I read, I recognized my adult version of the protagonist. I laughed out loud, marveling at seeds that blossomed—half a century later—into what I have become.
Before you ask, I’m not sharing the title. I’m considering this adventure—because that’s what this is, and we should ponder epiphanies—and wondering what exactly I’m supposed to do with this revelation of myself.
But this book won’t slip onto my laden bookshelves and be forgotten. For as long as I write, it’s going to have pride of place on my desk. Who knows? It may even work itself into the next manuscript.
I think I owe it that much.