Silence. The first few days of summer, we had conversations, but since then... now... my words drift unheard, unanswered, into the air. She sits near me... or at least she appears to be sitting there, book in hand, nose in book, but in truth, she's gone, following Ender through his futuristic world... revisiting Harry Potter... getting to know Mary Stewart's versions of King Arthur and Merlin.
Sigh. I miss the conversation, but books have the same effect on me... they just reach out and pull me in. I step into that other world and don't want to come out until "The End" - and sometimes, when it's a really, really good book, not even then.
I am a Reader, and whether by genetics, example or luck, my kids are all Readers, too, all hounded by the same addiction. We can control ourselves, balance reading time with chores and necessities up to a point... the halfway point of a book, to be exact. Then the real world falls into shadow and like any other addict, the book, the story, the characters, that's all we can think about. If we're pulled away for work, social obligations, bathing, eating, the book still fills our brains... we are homesick for that other world and scramble back in as fast as we can. My kids have gotten into more trouble by sneaking a book to the dinner table than anything else, I bet. I'm sympathetic, but Tom is free of our addiction, and doesn't understand. On nights when it was just me and the kids around the table, we all had a book open.
Yes, I'm an Enabler.
Introducing my kids to books, reading to them, watching their faces light up, sharing laughter and tears through words, finding them curled up in a corner lost in a story, seeing evidence of their own imaginations spilling out onto blank pages - those are some of my most joyous moments as a mother.
For those same reasons, I loved being the elementary school librarian for a year. Although I was technically (meaning "paid as") an aide, I had the run of the show at our little elementary... reading to the students, introducing them to stories and characters just as I had my own kids, ordering new books for the shelves, repairing the worn, beloved ones. Because our district was so small, the state only required one "real" librarian; she was busy at the middle/high school library several miles away.
I absolutely loved that job! I wonder why becoming a librarian never occurred to me all those years ago? (And while I'm questioning myself, why, oh why did I drop out of college? Then I'd only be one degree away from my dream job, instead of two. Ah, you can be so stupid sometimes. Sigh.)
I come from Readers myself. Daddy always slipped a Louis L'Amour, Leon Uris or other small paperback into his lunchbox before heading off to work and Mama sat at the kitchen table reading every night before heading to bed.
For me, it started with a stack of Little Golden books, read over and over and over until words and images were stamped in my memory. Others found their way to my library, all well-worn, well-read by the time they reached me: The Little House from my neighbor, Ola Mae; an ancient version of Black Beauty, Daddy's response to my "I'm bored" in my 7th summer; Daddy-Long-Legs, A Girl of the Limberlost, The Call of the Wild, Cousins... beloved stories that stick to me even now. I think they're the reason used books have such a special place in my heart.
I missed a lot of the childhood classics somehow, though. My wonderful 4th grade teacher Ms. Haygood read The Secret Garden to us (still a favorite) and thanks to my sweet sister, also a reader and book collector, I read Swiss Family Robinson and PollyAnna. But it wasn't until junior high that I discovered Mary Poppins and Peter Pan (the books, not the movies.) I've still never read Anne of Green Gables or the Little House on the Prairie series, although I have both sets stashed somewhere in my collection, snatched from a garage sale or used book store somewhere along the way.
My friend Patti introduced me to Nancy Drew and it's been a lifelong friendship. My yellow- and blue-backed collections of her adventures wait downstairs in cardboard boxes for my dream library to be finished. Patti's also the one who challenged me to read thick books, epics like Gone with the Wind in 7th grade.
I looked forward to working my 12-hour night shifts at the chemical plant years ago because I got so much reading time in - and I wasn't the only one! You might think you had stumbled into a library instead of a control room or laboratory judging by all the books, magazines, and newspapers that you found, not to mention the bowed heads engrossed in a story, or book discussions going on in a corner of the lunchroom.
My reading time was slashed to pieces when I became a stay-at-home mom. That was something I sure didn't expect. I was in heaven when my kids got old enough for me to read them chapter books instead of the same Little Golden Book about Busy Timmy over and over, but before I knew it, before I was ready, they left me behind.
Damn that J.K. Rowling! It was during the Harry Potter phenomena that they decided they couldn't wait for our one-chapter-a-night sessions. Instead, they drew straws and took turns reading the latest volume by themselves, sometimes staying up all night to finish it rather than risk someone else picking it up before they were through. We were sworn to silence about the book until all of us had read it.
Reading to my kids had been my excuse for so long, it was tough - it's still tough - to allow myself the time to just read for pleasure for longer than it takes me to eat breakfast in the morning or lunch on the weekends or wait in a lobby for a doctor's appointment.
Since the book I'm writing drifts through the Civil War time period, I'm currently reading Cold Mountain. I have been for months, but I'm only just now at the halfway mark. Yep, finally half way. So now you know... if I disappear for awhile, it's because I'm trapped in the second half of Cold Mountain.
My kids in typical formation during a recent visit to my parents. I'm glad they still make time to read! I need to learn from them.