20 Apr

Somehow, without even trying to, I have raised a reader.  He sits across the room from me right now deeply engaged in his book, Death Cloud, sent to him by his grandmother.  It came in the mail yesterday.  It’s 9:41 and his baby brother and pain-in-the-neck kid sister are asleep.  He should be.  But I can relate to his total engrossment in his reading, and I don’t want to ruin any perfect minutes for these children who have such an imperfect life underlying their momentary pleasures.  Although that’s not entirely true, because I would totally make him turn off the television or put away the videogames if that were his distraction.  I just happen to believe in his drug of choice, because it ranks right up there with caffeinated coffee on my own list of top 5 pleasures of this transitory life.

(He’s yawning now.  His school is having exams this week.  Still, I am not saying a word.)

I often stay up too late with a book.  It doesn’t even have to be a great book, although I have increasing impatience for the less-than perfect.  There’s simply too much that is beautiful and wonderful and right to waste my time on something mediocre.  Having said that, though, I will still read anything that’s available.  I read The Power of Myth yesterday and today.  Finished it (thanks Wehners).  Tonight I will start Lanterns on the Levee, by William Alexander Percy, but while I was waiting to be struck with the next great book (metaphorically speaking — there is no book-throwing in my house.  Books are more sacred than vases.), I was reading Calvin Trillin’s essays in Family Man, a classic in the genre of “a good time was had by all.”

(He’s still yawning, still reading.  Someone call child welfare.)

I am a slacker mom.  We do things right around here about 80% of the time, but I don’t pay enough attention to some of the finer points of parenting like brushing their teeth, washing their hair, or reading to them.  I am far more likely to have them read to each other.  I think this is typical in a single-parent home.  You have to let some things go.  That’s my mantra anyway, and they DO brush their teeth and wash their hair – just not every morning, every night, after school, and 3 times on the weekends.  We let a few things slide.  And reading.  I don’t read to them like I should.

Luckily, the older two love to read anyway.  In spite of their slacker mom and her hygiene issues.  I can only assume they are mimicking my behavior or that they inherited the propensity.  Both sets of grandparents are chronic readers.  Their dad, not so much, at least when I lived with him.  I kept his kindle in the divorce and he didn’t argue.  Their mother?  Compulsive reader from way back.

I remember receiving poor grades in conduct.  Not for causing a ruckus in class, but for reading.  The teacher would be teaching and I would have a book open in my lap under my desk.  Teachers tended not to like that habit.  I would finish my work quickly and then ask for a hall pass so I could spend the rest of the class-time in the library.  Some of my best friends in school were the librarians – Mrs. Leflore, Mrs. Spragins, and Mrs. Gnemi.  Some of my classroom teachers understood me and didn’tt mind, but others believed me to be disrespectful.

At camp, after lights out, I was under the covers with a flashlight and my book.  Same with boarding school.  I don’t think I read all that much in college, but of course, I was majoring in English, so there was a lot of reading-for-class, not-for-pleasure.  If it was a 20th century American or a Victorian novel or one of the Russians or Dante’s Inferno, well, that was a bonus.  Besides, there were parties that had to be attended.

When this child who is still up (10:03 p.m.  I am a terrible mother) was born in June of 2001, we spent the whole summer in bed.  He would nap on my bed, I would read Harry Potter.  He would wake up and I would read it to him (hey, maybe I was less of a slacker with fewer children!) and then he would doze a little (I just love newborns) and I would read some more.  I don’t know how many Harry Potters were out in 2001, but we read every last one there was.  It was heaven.

(He’s on page 282.  There are 306 pages.  “Can I please finish this?”  What would you have said?)

After that, I took a reading hiatus for at least 5 years.  Now, with all the evening and alternating-weekend quiet in my house, I spend my time in the company of bad dogs and good books.  And sometimes there are raucous children around to bring me out of my self-imposed exile. 

And occasionally, all the stars are in alignment and it’s late on a school night, just Wade, me and his good book, and close enough to perfect for this broken home.


8 Responses to “reader”

  1. Ann April 20, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Loved this post. The part about there being so many good books to read made me think of a post I read on another blog this week. I think you’ll like it, particularly the post that she links to….

  2. Tifani April 21, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    What I loved most was the image of staying up to read HP while pregnant. Of course, I was pregnant with Maggie at the same time. Clif and I would read HP with Morgan in that same time frame. I have the warmest memories of those nights, falling asleep to Clif’s beautiful voice with a kindergarten Morgan in my arms.

    • brightenthecorner April 21, 2011 at 4:38 am #

      so sweet, Tif. Once Wade was born, I spent that whole summer in the air-conditioning, recovering from my c-section, nursing, dozing, and reading HP. It was a precious time.

  3. failedatforty April 21, 2011 at 3:33 am #

    My favorite book in the past few years is The History of Love by Nicole Kraus. Check it out if you haven’t already.

    • brightenthecorner April 21, 2011 at 4:39 am #

      I shall. I would actually like to read more about that sweet frothy drink you had in Chicago.

  4. Olivia Wood April 21, 2011 at 4:12 am #

    Getting in trouble for reading under the desk? Oh, heck yes. That’s me in every way shape and form– I’m just good at hiding it now. (btw, I’m the owner of the blog Ann linked to–thanks to her for the mention.)

    I’m always partial to fond HP stories. 🙂

    • brightenthecorner April 21, 2011 at 4:40 am #

      Olivia, I love your list of books you’ve read this year. If I could just ditch my day job (the one that pays the bills), think how much I could READ and ABSORB and LEARN!

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