It was always so special when my Uncle Bill came to visit. He'd pull up into our driveway, usually just after supper time, after he navigated that pale blue Buick La Sabre south during the five-hour drive to Edmonton from Grande Prairie. My mother, in anticipation of his arrival, always kept a plate of supper in the oven for Uncle Bill. We'd gather around the kitchen table and visit with him while he ate his evening meal.
Visiting would continue until 8:00 PM. Then, it was off to brush my teeth and climb into my single bed in the bedroom I shared with my younger brother Brad.
Once Mom covered me up with my blankets - the one with the red and white racing cars; my favourite - Uncle Bill slowly walked into our room with two books in his hand and asked a question with such formality.
"OK, Cameron and Bradley. What book would you like me to read to you tonight?"
And then it happened: the moment I had been looking forward to ever since I was aware of Uncle Bill's visit.
He took the book we picked - er, I should say, the one Brad picked, because he was, of course, the youngest Uncle Bill would click on the lamp on the table between our beds. He gently sat down on my bed, opened the book and started reading. We hung onto every word, every sentence and every paragraph. Sadly, memory can't serve up names of books - we're talking more than five decades, folks - but I remember, vividly, where Uncle Bill took my imagination through reading. I could picture the little boy by the creek, or the baby bear walking behind his mother, or the hockey player scoring the winning goal for his team.
I remember starting to feel sad when I saw there were only a few more pages before the end of the story. Sure, it was a happy ending. But when Uncle Bill turned off the lamp, gave Brad and I that extra pat on the shoulder, and, if need be, tucked in the covers for a good eight hours of sleep, I hated to see him leave.
Only for a moment, though. And then I thought about the story we just heard. I thought about the things I heard and wondered how I could incorporate some of them into my daily life.
I could imagine. I could picture myself in fun times… happy times. It was absolutely the perfect opening act before I drifted off to sleep and did perhaps the most important thing young people do.
I share the story of Uncle Bill, now passed, as Monday is the first page of Read-in-Week in Edmonton. Several Oilers and Oil Kings players, along with Orange & Blue Ice Crew members will read to classrooms across the city next week.
With today's society so entrenched in technology, Read In Week has a profound placement now more than ever. Oh, sure: it's a generational thing and my age is showing.
But those memories of not only Uncle Bill, but my folks, other relatives and friends - yes, even babysitters - reading stories to us; I can now embrace what it meant to me and how important it is.
A child. A book. Someone reading to them.
Let the dreams begin!