I don’t think we ever outgrow having pacifiers. They change shape, but we all have that one thing that we feel most comfortable having with us. Might be wearing makeup. Or having a cell phone in your pocket. A certain necklace. A photo of your family tucked in your wallet.

I can’t leave home without a book.

I know perfectly well that I will not shrivel up and die if I don’t have a book with me. I will, in fact, still be able to function just fine and get everything done that I need to do, and go where I need to go.

But, darn it, I won’t be as comfortable as I am when I have a book with me. A book in my purse means I will never be bored. No matter how my plans change, how long I end up stuck in that waiting room, how long the start of a meeting is delayed, how many minutes it takes that tow truck to reach me, how many eons it takes my kids’ activities to wrap up while I sit in the parking lot, I will always have something entertaining to do. It’s my alone time even when I’m in a crowd of people.

I’ll just read.

I was that kid, back when it was okay to call a kid with glasses “four-eyes” and a kid with her nose in a book a “bookworm,” who didn’t give a hoot about the name-calling if I meant I had to stop reading. Nope. No way, no how was I putting down that book. Ditch the story to go play with the kids who were calling me names? Didn’t seem like a good trade to me.

Entire worlds were in those books. Friends and enemies were in those books. Magic was in those books. I could tune out the world around me if I had a book and fall into a new world.

To this day, I carry a book with me everywhere, even if I know perfectly well that I’ll have a 5% chance at best of getting to read any of it. It gives me an out if a situation becomes annoying or uncomfortable. It gives me a fidget if I get bored. It’s my unnecessary essential, that thing I can absolutely live without and completely don’t want to live without.

My life got a whole lot better when my husband gave me an e-reader one Christmas. I never again had to face the harsh reality of finishing a book in the middle of a marathon waiting room session and not having another one to start. Now I can carry an entire library’s worth of books in one four-ounce piece of gadgetry. As long as I don’t get stranded in the middle of the woods with no electrical outlet for weeks on end — hasn’t happened yet — I’m good to go.

Every one of us has that one thing we don’t want to live without. What’s yours?

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