Monday, June 10, 2013

The Richest Lady In Town

The Richest Lady In Town

A couple of weeks ago our family moved into a brand new home we’ve been building over the last year. Inside it is a library with many books dating back to my early childhood.

My library began with Golden Books purchased by my mother at the supermarket each week for twenty-five cents. (I think the price is correct. Often our three or four year old memories aren’t too accurate.) From there, I graduated to various picture books. On my ninth birthday I received a box filled with hard cover Readers Digest classics for children. I was in heaven.

Robinson Crusoe; Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island and Robin Hood fired my imagination. Our family didn’t have much money and gifts were often very practical or cheap, but books were always purchased when possible.

Sometimes my mother would foist books upon me and tell me I should read them. When it came to adolescence I didn’t get a talk, I got a book. The book was actually very good at explaining the physical changes and some of the emotional changes I was going through. I realise now that my mother struggled to communicate much of what she wanted to tell me, so she bought books.

The years passed and my collection grew as I kept favourite books from school, uni or church.
My first Bible sits on my shelf, pages falling out, cover askew and filled with notes and under linings marking the path of a spiritual journey with many ups and downs.

When I had children I had the rule that they could not ask for anything at the shops, especially if they said, ‘I want.’ My reply was, ‘I want, doesn’t get.’

However, I told them they could pick whatever fruit or vegetable they liked-even if it was expensive. If we were in a bookstore I told them they could choose a book if they wanted to. (We spent a lot of time in second hand bookstores!)

I also got library cards for every member of the family and, each week, we would head to the library and bring home bags of books.

Over the years, our financial situation became so I could go into a bookstore and buy any book I wanted. I knew I was the richest lady in town. I was a blessed woman.

I also have the honour of travelling to Cambodia and training teachers there. Books are held in such high regard there that, at first, the children in our program only saw the books in a glass case. The teacher was the only one allowed to handle them and read them to the children.

Part of my training with them is to teach that books need to be used. If they become dog-eared, then all the better. When I travel to Cambodia my suitcase is filled with books. I take a small overnight case for my clothes and personal items. The rest is filled with wonderful books I have purchased, or been given, so that 2000 children in Phnom Penh can be exposed to the wonderful world that books open up for them.

It gives me great delight to see children lying on the floor, poring over books and enjoying the pleasures of being able to read.

As I sit in this room dedicated to my books, the history is palpable around me. I’m reminded of my life journey from a child being read Golden Books on my father’s lap, through childhood adventures in myriad books to being an English teacher, a parent and now a writer with my own library space. I’m convinced God has brought me here.

I am the richest lady in town, not just because I own so many books and have a beautiful room in which to enjoy them, but because I’ve been on a journey with God. He has taught me, guided me and kept me through life. The books are signposts on that journey and markers of growth like rings on trees.

I am the Lord your God,
Who teaches you what is best for you,
Who directs you in the way you should go.
Isaiah 48:17
Elaine Fraser


  1. I remember buying a golden book a week when I was pregnant with my first daughter! Now my daughters are buying these precious books to read to their children. Yes we are blessed indeed.

  2. Elaine, your post reminds me of when my son was little and we would go to the shops. He was allowed to get a milkshake and a book. As a consequence, we have so many books. He now enjoys other things (like Lego), but his love of books is still so strong. What we feed is what will grow.

  3. I loved reading your story of how books have impacted your life. I am very grateful that both of my children love books.

  4. Thanks Elaine
    I love finding kindred spirits on this site! My childhood story is much the same as yours, the love of reading from Golden Books! And in turn my son loves to read, which I attribute to the treat of a 'Cocky Circle' book at the supermarket most weeks!

    What a blessing for you to be able to travel to another country to share your passion for reading and writing!

  5. A beautiful post that brings back many memories, Elaine--and your library must be gorgeous! Re the Golden books, yes, they used to be four for a dollar, I remember, at one stage. I still have a lot of the ones I bought for our children on the shelf here for our grandchildren to enjoy. They're a bit dog-eared but they're still readable!

  6. Oh Elaine. I loved your post. I fully understand your journey since I too have had a love affair with books right through my life as has my husband. It's such a joy to see our son now at age 23 spending so much time reading - he is probably the highest user in our 6 libraries one card system - since he gets so many books each week - and good ones too!

    I loved what you'd told your kids about choosing fruits, veggies and books when out in the shops. Great wisdom there.

    I also agree that each of us is indeed the 'richest woman in town' when we know Jesus.
    Bless you for all you are doing to promote the love of books in the world at large. Being a READER makes on rich beyond all imaginings doesn't it?

  7. PS Enjoy your new library to the full. I know you will! :)

  8. Fantastic, Elaine. Thank you for sharing. Reminded me of my two favourite possessions I had. The first was the Children's Bible, which I still have and spent hours reading. Then there was the Treasury of Hans Christian Anderson that my mother brought me when I was 10 years old. I loved that book and spent hours pouring over it. When my daughter turned 10, I brought her the same book and she is an avid reader these days. I think that creating a culture of reading is so important and what a wonderful work you are doing in Cambodia.

    I have room day I will have my library too! LOL You certainly are the richest woman in town!

  9. So happy for you to be the richest lady in town! Your mention of Golden Books brought back memories for me as well... Instilling the love of books in my children... all of our personal libraries ever growing... always being aware though that HIS book is the most precious of all. Enjoy your new home :)

  10. I loved how you described the books on your shelf as being like growth rings in a tree. So true!
    My bookshelf is a lot slimmer now than it was, but the books I've kept all say something about who I was and what I learned or was interested in during that time.

  11. Elaine, that would definitely be my favourite room. My husband once had a dream that we would live in a house with book shelves on all the walls. I told him it was prophetic! He panicked and said it was a nightmare LOL. Haven't quite got there yet, but we are up to bookcase No. 7 (2 of them half size). Also loved your story about taking books to the children in Cambodia. What a blessing to be able to share books with them in that way. May God continue to bless your ministry.

  12. How lovely for you, Elaine. I see you've yet to stack your shelves...that'll be fun.
    My husband has floor to ceiling bookshelves in his study also my his bedroom and the hallway.
    Me, I only have my writing books, as I've given away most of my books. I get great delight in sharing them, hoping they'll be passed on in turn.

  13. Hi Elaine. I love that you take piles of books with you to Cambodia. My sister is going to do a three year missionary stint over there - I might suggest the same to her. Blessings.

  14. Hi Elaine,
    I love your perspective on being the richest lady in town and also the feeling about books you've instilled in your family.

  15. I too was a golden book girl, Elaine. So many similarities,I chuckled as I read the comment about those who ask not getting as I used to say much the same and the picture of coming home with bags of books from the library. Lovely post but particularly liked where you ended up. Great verse to remember.

  16. Hi Elaine,

    There is something truly special about indulging in a good book. I am not one to sit around but I never feel it is a waste of time to read. It is interesting the value placed on books in different demographics and I guess supply and demand plays a part. Books for children in situations like in Cambodia are exactly what initiated my career in kid's books. I too poured over the Golden Books - re-reading and re-reading multiple times. Entertainment was simpler back then.