I haven’t read anything in three years.
Yeah, that “what I’m reading now” claim in my Amazon widget is a half-truth. Actually, it’s more like a third- or fourth-truth. I’m sure Making the Blue Plate Special is a great book. At least I’ve imagined so for the past three years. I finally read the first chapter in the waiting room of my obstetrician back in May or June. And, yes, I gave it the obligatory toss into my bag each of the 35 times I went back during my pregnancy– only I ditched it for the quickie magazine read every time. I’m a fairly intelligent girl, well-educated, well-versed with the world and sufficiently socially-aware (even though I’ve never actually seen an entire episode of Grey’s Anatomy.) And yet, I’m willing to admit it… I haven’t read anything in three years.
That’s not entirely true. I’ve read other chapters here and there, the occasional article, quite a few websites, not to mention the 6000 times I’ve read Make Way for Ducklings and Harry the Dirty Dog. But, those don’t count–I guess because I wasn’t reading in the curl up with it, “I love to read,” lose yourself, “I’m really enjoying this” sense. I suppose I was reading out of wanting to want to read. But, I just couldn’t muster it up. It started when I got pregnant with my first child, and Drummer Boy, Squiggle Man and Baby Girl later, I got out of the habit and decided it was ok.
And it was.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about reading again and actually getting excited about it–hence, this reading ramble. I think nursing Baby Girl has been the catalyst for my renewed reading interest. With the desire to stay awake during our 2 or 3 or 4am feedings, there are only so many election debate or NLCS replays I can stomach without losing my mind. Reading seems like a worthy alternative.
I’ve run this cycle several times in my life. Maybe I got burned out with my current reading interest. Maybe the pursuit of school studies or bible studies choked out the desire for frivolous words. Maybe I just found other more important ways to occupy my “free” moments, like my pleasantly time-consuming bundles of joy. I guess I’ve never really bought into the “make time for Mommy” mantra. But, then, my family path gave me 35 years to make time for me before my children came along. Then, I was so totally enamored by them, that Mommy time just seemed like a waste of time. Regardless, over the years, reading and I have had a fairweather relationship.
As a child, I was an avid reader. Not a voracious reader, grabbing up anything and everything I could get my hands on. But, an avid one. There’s a subtle difference. I had a few chosen reading mainstays that I devoted myself to over and over again: Little Women, the Little House on the Prairie series, anything Beverly Cleary (i.e. Beezus and Ramona.) I immersed myself in those books so often that I can clearly remember walking down the hallway in my 4th grade elementary school wondering where Laura and Mary Ingalls were. I threw in a love of biographies and several other series that required more than a few reminders from my Mother to turn out the light. Oddly, I’ve always had a penchant for reading the same books over and over again.
Since I started EyeJunkie I’ve been curious about online reading opportunities. I’ve explored news sites, public opinion, entertainment, other blogs and those curiosities you find in a largely unedited medium. (My tiny disclaimer: Oh be careful little eyes what you see) I’ve even landed on a few “favorite” blogs that I read regularly, if for no other reason than to keep up with the thoughts of friends I admire. I have to admit, however, that I really don’t consider it reading. There’s something about seeing the words backlit and framed by logos and enticements to find your old high school classmates that pulls the “reading for pleasure” right out of the equation. I love the internet because you can find at least a surface level of information on just about anything, generally for free. Since I’m an information junkie, that’s quite intriguing. But, it just screams “I’m temporary. Speed through this and move on.” Reading on the computer doesn’t offer the same pull to sit down and take time to enjoy that an old-fashioned book does. (Did I just refer to books as “old-fashioned”?)
There is something special about actually holding the book and turning the pages. It fulfills my need for some tactile interaction with what I’m reading that can’t be satisfied with a wireless mouse. Wrangling with the book jacket, slitting the occasional uncut page, bending the paperback spine — these experiences let me know I’m reading a BOOK, not the result of bytes reconfigured at the end of a cable somewhere. The click of the bookmark button in my browser doesn’t compare to fiddling with my own placeholder while scanning the page–be it the cross-stitched version I made as a child with turtles and a green/white dotted border, my photo of the boys at Squiggle Man’s birthday party, Maggie’s appointment card for her 8-week check-up, or the receipt from the library letting me know my return date.
Within the realm of real BOOKS, my favorite vehicle for reading pleasure is the public library! It sends a little flutter in my heart just thinking about it. I love libraries in that nerdy sort of horn-rimmed glasses way that shatters any possibility of coolness.
I don’t know if it is the discipline of sharing, the thrill of leafing where others in my community have leafed, or simply the lack of funds, but I love library books. The faint musty smell of volumes squeezed in between movable wire brackets. The library stamp on page 43 (at least that’s where my library stamps it.) The smudged page that makes you wonder uneasily, “what is that?” The corner crease marking some other reader’s stopping point. The faint pencil correction of a publisher’s rare spelling error. The serendipity of the new book shelf. The realization that mine aren’t the first hands to turn these pages. I love it all.
In the days of signing circulation cards, you could judge your reading choice by those who checked out a book before you. You could even remind yourself of whether you had read a particular book before. The advent of politically correct privacy issues caused a switch to anonymous library card numbers on circulation cards in our library. Now, the computer system eliminates any evidence of the one who read it last. But, still I wonder and share a comradery with the patrons who got to this one first.
I have a long, loving history with public libraries.
I remember Summer Reading Programs at the Tombigbee Regional Library where you could set a reading goal for the summer and earn rewards by completing it. I knew right where the Mary Poppins books were, under J T for P.L. Travers and the Pippi Longstocking books, under J L for Astrid Lindgren. I could find all the available biographies about Abraham Lincoln or Martha Washington, and I enjoyed the fun of the program’s occasional puppet show. Later, I was privileged to be among the first to see many of the new books purchased by that library. I worked in the office during my high school senior year creating their card catalog cards–author, title and subject cards filed in the main card catalog and a shelf list card filed in the library’s administrative master catalog. Those cards are a forgotten library moment in this age of online cataloging.
I remember choosing The Bell Jar from the West Point High School Library because it’s cover was the most brilliant purple and the name was interesting. I had no idea the book was a semi-autobiographical account of Sylvia Plath’s troubled mental state, nor of the author’s controversial feminist stance and experiences with questionable psychotherapy techniques.
In college, I worked at the university library branch in the School of Architecture. It inspired me to pursue that degree for several years until I determined my talents were better focused in two dimensions. There, I read countless issues of Architectural Digest and gained an introduction to Le Corbusier, the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and Faye Jones.
My on-again, off-again relationship with the Starkville Public Library has mirrored the stages of my adult life, and my choice of reading obsessions has mirrored the stages of my mind. I even worked there one summer and made giant animal footprints to go on the Children’s Room ceiling for their Summer Reading Program. So, with a renewed desire for reading just because, we got reacquainted again last Friday.
3 movies for my boys — The Great Muppet Caper, Bob the Builder We Can Build It, Flo the Lyin’ Fly
The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell by Lilian Jackson Braun — a new installment (new to me, at least) in a familiar mystery series
OutFoxed by Rita Mae Brown — I think I may have started this one before
Murder in the Museum by Simon Brett — haven’t read this author, but it looked interesting
When I brought my selections home, I got to tell Little Drummer Boy that Mommy had borrowed some new movies for Friday Movie Night. After I explained the concept of borrowing and that although we would have to take them back to the library, we could borrow more, he was pumped up for Miss Piggie and the whole concept.
“Will I be able to go to the library?”
Yep, I birthed that boy!