Thursday, November 25, 2010

The book, the day, and me

In May of 1996, I was still newly married, following my husband's job half-way across the country from southern California to San Antonio, Texas. I arrived two weeks after him, in this city where I had no friends and no job, and nothing to fill my days but a stack of books.

I can't remember too many times in my life where there was nothing to do but read, but we had few things to unpack, and as a teacher I was still a good month away from schools beginning to post openings.

And so, with the warm summer sun already starting, I pulled an old wicker chair onto our deck and began to read. And for four glorious weeks, I did nothing but read. Sometimes on the deck in the glorious colors of the sunset; sometimes by the pool with the wavy aqua afternoon light bouncing off the pages; sometimes curled in the corner of the couch with the rain dripping down the windows. Breakfast bagels, lunch sandwiches, afternoon chocolate covered pretzels... and a book.

Book after book. In this foreign land of San Antonio I was in my own foreign land of Austria and Germany and the bone-yards of Tennessee. I devoured a book a day... 700 pages often times, no doubt; each one a step closer to the realization I would make in less than four months that I wanted to write a book myself.... and seven years from actually attempting that feat.

In those pages I fell in love, was scared breathless, ached and laughed and cried. I disappeared and became someone else.

And then, in a flash, it was gone.

I got a call that a neighbor's baby was sick and they couldn't put him in child care; the father was an anesthesiologist and the mother an ophthalmologist, and neither could skip work. Could I come and care for the hacking, sneezing child?

And so I did. And when the mother came home, creeping up the stairs to find her son, there we were, him and I, curled in a chair in the nursery with a stack of book, reading Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss. And so I was offered a job.

I nannied for three months, until I began teaching English at the local middle school, and then there were other moves and other schools and my own children and life. And somehow, those days of lazing around reading vaporized like dust in the wind.

This past week, my latest novel was done, my school work turned in, my children well and in school. I bought a book I'd been wanting to read forever - not one I should read or needed to read - but one I just plain wanted to read. And on Monday, I did.

Curled in the couch, five hours straight until the kids came home from school, then four hours after they fell asleep, I read. And read. And read. I read Francine River's Redeeming Love. Glorious, indulgent, submersive reading.

What is it about reading that makes me feel so guilty for spending time doing it? Reading and writing... I love them too much for it to feel like a job.

I wasn't going to write a Thanksgiving post today. But then again... maybe I just did.


  1. I love this. And it was great to get to know you better. (Visiting San Antonio and Austin is on my bucket list.)
    Reading does feel like a luxury in our go, go, go society but to not buy into the believe that it should be secondary to other 'life' duties is so important to keep writing alive.
    I read Redeeming Love in three days just this past September and cried ots!

  2. I remember settling in to read THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS on a summer day right after lunch. When I looked up again, it was dark outside.

  3. I also love to read. I spent many days laying around recooperating from a spinal injury..using prism glasses reading many many books as a young girl.

    MY husband's job took us from Sacramento, CA to Carlisle, PA. HUGE changes were in store for us...with one preteen and one young daughter. I also HAD not one friend here.

    Alas GOD is so good! I have many friends now 14 years later, but also love to read..especially Francine Rivers! (fyi my Mom is an author as well)

    Always take time for does yourself good ....shows your children you need a break now and then.

  4. I love it when I can just sit and read and can let everything else go. It's divine. I love it even more when I can write with that kind of peace and relaxation. my four year old is helping me even as I type, tapping me with a magic wand. I write pretty well for someone who's just been turned into a frog, no?

  5. Hey, my husband is from San Antonio. We visit twice a year. I haven't really had that INDULGENT feeling of reading even though I've read a lot lately. I usually feel like I'm RACE READING, you know-get a page in here and there. No couch curling for me. Darn. Beautiful post.

  6. Cyndi - God is always good! :) I made some good friends there in San Antonio, eventually.

    And I agree about showing the kids that it's important to take time to read. Now that all of mine can read by themselves, we have reading time on the weekends and during summer break where we all lay around on the floor and couches together reading. I love that they love books as much as me! :)