A Love Story (About Stories) by Alex Springer

My mom used to bribe me to read.  Looking back, it’s odd for me to think that the son of an English teacher who then grew up to become an English teacher had a rocky relationship with the printed word as a youngster.  My mom, who knew back then exactly what I know now about reading, must have been worried about my cognitive development as a non-reader.  She would offer me trips to the mall, ice cream, or even action figures if I would crack a book.


No dice.  All those pages with nothing but words? It seemed like such a waste of time.


Eventually she let up.  She would lament that I was squandering precious opportunities to expand my mind—you know, the kind of universal truths that kids don’t seem to comprehend—but she decided that pestering me about it would do more harm than good.   Instead, she found opportunities to tell me stories.  Mom had a thing for Greek mythology.  She knew all of the classics by heart—Jason and the Argonauts, the seven trials of Hercules, Odysseus and the Cyclops.  Whenever we took a drive to the grocery store and back, mom would fill my mind with epic journeys and freakish monsters.  I loved it.  Though neither of us knew it at the time, I had become a story enthusiast.


Despite my newfound love for stories, I still didn’t trust books.  Instead, I fed my addiction to stories with Saturday morning cartoons and mid-afternoon movies.  My parents had recorded The Wizard of Oz onto a VHS cassette, and I spent hours watching and re-watching Dorothy’s adventures, never paying much heed to the fact that before Judy Garland donned her ruby slippers, my favorite story of all time originated from the literary works of L. Frank Baum.  As my action figure collection expanded, I began creating my own stories.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became tragic heroes and G.I. Joes pondered the Nietzchean abyss from behind plastic eyes.  Of course—and this is something that will always frustrate me—had I spent more time reading, who knows how much more I would have enjoyed seeing Dorothy’s adventures in Oz? Who knows what heroic poems I would have composed upon the cluttered carpet of my childhood bedroom?


During fifth grade, my school switched to a year-round schedule, which meant I would go for a few weeks without having to go to school.  In theory, this was awesome.  But once I hit day three of my first off-track week, I realized that filling the time that I usually spent at school was a lot harder than I originally thought.  While struggling with this free time, an interesting development took place—but it requires some context.  Throughout his adolescence, my oldest brother had accumulated a giant box of comic books.  As I was forbidden to enter my oldest brother’s room, the contents of this box were unknown to me—and it drove me crazy.  Sometimes I peered into his room with hopes of catching a glimpse of an errant issue that was perhaps left on the floor.  Tradition dictated that this box was to be passed down from brother to brother as they left for college, and during my time off-track, it finally came to me.  I spent my two off-track weeks in my room with this cosmic discovery.  By the time I went back to school, I had digested some of Chris Claremont’s best X-Men story arcs, figured out what powered Iron Man’s suit, and why Doctor Strange is called Doctor Strange.  It was a milestone in my life.  I sat down and spent hours wrapped up in books.

In both cases, I was lucky enough to have people help guide me to what I consider to be an addiction to stories, and in many ways it’s defined who I am.  I suppose this was one of the reasons I wanted to become a teacher.  Sometimes, along the road we need someone to tell us an epic poem or drop a box of comic books in our laps, and I wanted to be that someone.  Everyone deserves a decent story.


Alex Springer currently teaches high school in Midvale, Utah.  He is married to another English teacher, and occasionally they have to set boundaries regarding the time spent talking about work when they get home.  They have two cats, a rapidly expanding used book collection, and are regular attendees of the San Diego Comic Con.  You can follow him on Twitter @CaptainSpringer and check out his blog at www.theidlerblog.wordpress.com.