- One of my earliest second-hand book finds was a history of bells containing, naturally, "The Bells" alongside the photos of old bells, the histories of churches and the handbell sheet music. How could a teenager with a thing for memorable language not be captured by "Keeping time, time, time/In a sort of Runic Rhyme/To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells/From the bells, bells, bells, bells/bells, bells, bells." I think this poem in particular is at the heart of the prioritization of sound that drives my style to this day.
- In sophomore English we would read short stories aloud by taking two-paragraph turns and going around the room until every student had read and we finished the story. One day "The Cask of Amontillado" came up, and I completely forgot to not be the primary geek in the room and got lost in the story and the characters and filled my classroom performance with all the forensic flair I could muster. Not for the class, not for Miss S. (well, maybe a little), but because giving voice to Poe's story was unbelievable fun.
Mom certainly didn't intend this introspection with her gift (or so I assume), but it turned out to be the best kind of present - a reminder of something I can easily pass along to my kids as their interest in language and storytelling grows (they're already a couple laps ahead of where I was, anyway), one that will inform my teaching moments when coach young writers.