This photo was taken a few years ago at the local bookstore near where we live. Emma has never shown much interest in books. When she was a baby she would squirm and wimper when I tried to read to her. As she grew older, she allowed me to read to her as long as she was able to hold the book and turn the pages. Often she didn’t wait for me to finish reading before turning the page. Much the way she flips through photographs, so quickly it’s hard to believe she is really able to see what and who are in the photo, she does the same with books. I often wonder if Emma sees in patterns. In other words, her brain picks up the entire scene and creates an instant pattern, allowing her to “see” the image instantly, any variation is immediately recognized. I don’t know that she sees in this way, but I wonder.
Years before this photo was taken, I took Emma to the bookstore. She couldn’t have been older than three. She wriggled out of the stroller and ran to the back of the store. We hadn’t been inside this particular bookstore for at least six months. I followed Emma, calling out to her, “Emmy, where are you going?” As was typical, she ignored me and kept running. To her left was a floor to ceiling bookcase, filled with large picture books. Emma attempted to scale the bookcase.
“No! No! Emma!” I cried. “You can’t climb that. What do you want?”
Emma jumped up and down, making noises.
“Is there a book you want to see?” I asked, looking at the shelves for a familiar book, which she might like. Emma doesn’t like new books. Whenever we are in a bookstore and I offer a new book, one that she hasn’t seen before, she shakes her head no. Then goes over to a book she knows and pulls it from the shelf and hands it to me. A few of her favorites: “Chicka, Chicka Boom Boom”, “Gossie”, “Gossie and Gertie”, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” etc. On this particular day she wasn’t interested in any of those books. She was determined to climb the book shelf. I picked her up, bringing her close to the books so they were in her reach. “Do you want any of these?” I asked. Emma reached above my head, so I lifted her higher.
On the second to highest shelf, at about seven feet tall, Emma pulled a single book by it’s spine down from the shelf. “Is that what you wanted?” I asked. I set Emma down on the floor with her new book. The book was “Go Away, Big Green Monster!” I had never seen the book before. As I stood watching Emma flip through the pages, reciting each and every word, I felt a chill. It was eerie. Where had she seen this book? Who had read it to her? She knew every word of that book by heart and spent the next hour “reading” it over and over again.
When we returned home (with the book) I related to Richard what had happened. “It was bizarre, ” I said. “I mean have you ever seen this book?”
“No, really weird,” he said. “Maybe one of her therapists has it.”
“But she never lets them read to her. And how did she know where it was in the bookstore? She ran straight to it. The therapists don’t take her outside.”
“I don’t know. It’s really strange,” Richard said, looking at me.
“It was the only copy, Richard. She knew it from it’s spine. It wasn’t like it was out on display. And I haven’t taken her to that bookstore in months. She immediately knew where to find it.”
During the following weeks I asked everyone who came in contact with Emma, but no one had read her or lent her the book.
After a few months I stopped trying to figure it out. To this day, I have no idea how she found that book, or even knew of it’s existence. It remains one of the many unsolved mysteries of Emma’s mind.