I am watching my children tickle one another on the floor while my ears are covered with Greg’s massive headphones. I’m lost in the rhythms and lyrics of ‘Breathless’ by Small Black. So I cannot hear them as they giggle, squeal, and protest one another.
It is lovely.
This morning Abby said she wanted a new book. She’s double digits now and conscious of everything I am into. I know she is aware of my affections for aimlessly wandering around bookstores. I am guessing she is beginning to suspect I have a unique borderline unhealthy relationship with them.
I wonder around bookstores the way most people wander around department or clothing stores. And if you were to see the way I dress, it would all make sense. The way some people touch the fabrics to feel the weight or softness of the material trying to decide if it is something they might like to have against their skin, is the way I touch new books hoping to feel the connection to its weight and softness shiny smooth paperback flesh or am I going to go for its cold coarse hard cover counterpart?
The reasons some people read the fabric’s care instructions, are the same reasons I read the reviews: I want to know how much work is involved, is it an easy read or will I have to re-read paragraphs, will it sustain my interest or will my mind wander, will I be able to put it down for months at a time or have a week of sleepless nights because I cannot imagine putting it down?
The assessment of the garments style, I would argue is my way of accessing whether or not I am in the correct mindset to take on the book in question. For years after grad school, I was only able to read resource books. I couldn’t get enough of them. Since my focus was in early childhood development, I couldn’t walk into a bookstore and not pick up and eventually purchase a new theorist’s take on brain-based learning. If I was on the verge of finishing a knitting project, I needed a new knitting book for my next project. “Doh, Phoebe is a right-brained learner? Well, let’s get a book on the best way to teach those who are…you guessed it, right-brained learners.”
Having a child with Down syndrome, definitely took my love of resource books to a new level and eventually I hit some sort of resource book wall. I began and finished my first book of fiction within a weeks time over the summer. And not-so-patiently waited for the movie release. It was a cathartic experience. And in my interim for finding my next work of fiction, I am once again reading 3 resource books. So I guess my resource book wall is not as high as I thought.
So when Abby tells me of her desires for a new book, she’s tapping into an addiction I try to keep beneath the surface. I haven’t been to a bookstore in almost a month. Actually if I retrace my location by weeks, I didn’t visit a bookstore in Chowchilla, CA…we were in Pismo (for 3 weeks) and I walked by a Barnes n Nobles 2/3 times but it was Halloween and why would I go in a bookstore on Halloween with kids that would make me super selfish, I’m selfish for sure, but I don’t know if I’m super selfish…before Pismo we were in the unmentionable town for a week and there was definitely not a bookstore nearby…Idaho, once again walked by a Barnes N Nobles but I was late for my movie so I couldn’t go in then…again, we were there for a week…Mount Shasta, CA I didn’t visit a bookstore then either and that was 3 weeks…Oregon for 4 weeks and definitely no bookstores there. Oh man, I haven’t been to a bookstore in over two months.
Well, it was certainly time. Abby scratched an itch…so we drove 90 minutes in the jeep, on the highway, with the tops off, going 75 with a surf rack on top. We couldn’t hear a damn thing, but who cares? We were going to a bookstore.
“I want one of those really old classical books from like 1980’s, where there hard covered and really long” she confessed. “Oh wow, 1980’s? Do you think you’ll be able to read and understand the language of that really old-time” I asked dripping with sarcasm. Of course it went right over her head…as I hoped it would to which she responded, “Yes, I think I will understand it…I just want to read something old”. “Yes, you said that already” I reminded her. “What are you hoping to read about” I asked her trying to see if I could point her in the right direction…
…and she thoughtfully replied “Oh just something really…”.
“Old” I replied?
“Yes” she boasted.
I could tell she knew, I knew what she was talking about.
“I have just the thing” I told her.
When we walked into Barnes N Nobles in Nevada, a full 90 minutes later with our wind-blown hair, we made a B-line right for the children’s section and there it was, basking in a the brightest spotlight shining on its light mauve hardcover color complete with gold lettering, attached satin bookmark holder, and gold trimmed pages. It was small and perfect.
I reached for it and grabbed it with my all-too enthusiastic hands. I was too excited. I turned the book over and read the synopsis…handed it to her or more like shoved it in her face and more or less said, “Here, this is what you’re looking for” with utter confidence.
Looking back I now see how that definitely could have been a turn off. I went for the one I wanted first. I should have gone with ’20 thousand leagues under the sea’ first or ‘The Swiss Family Robinson’ first although it would have been my second choice. Both Anne of Green Gables and The Swiss Family Robinson were smaller hard copies. “A manageable read” I thought.
Annoyed with my over-excited aggressive omniscient attitude, she put both of them back on the shelf. “Oh rats balls, I’ve just lost her…she’s going to go for Peter Pan or something else…but I really want her to choose Anne of Green Gables…should I push her, give her an ultimatum or just get her the book I want her to get and completely ignore/discount her feelings” went through my mind in a split second.
She bent down, picked up The Tales of Peter Rabbit which for the record, was twice as thick, twice as heavy and of course, twice the price of my pick.
She’s gone through her chapter books, graphic novels, and series books, Harry Potter and Roald Dahl phases. The classics are of interest to her now. But I really wanted to read Anne of Green Gables with her…and then Greg’s voice popped into my head with his, “Why does she have to go with your pick? Peter Rabbit is just as much of a classic if not more than Anne? If she picks yours and doesn’t finish will you blame her or yourself? If she picks Peter Rabbit and doesn’t finish will you blame yourself or her? She can always read Anne of Green Gables next can’t she? Or is it out of print and this is the last copy anyone will ever see?”
“Ugh, shut up. Even when you’re not with me, you’re in my head…rationalizing and weighing out the pros and cons” I argue with myself. Ultimately I have those “What would Greg say” moments when I have this nagging feeling I might be imposing my desires for my children on my children rather than allowing them to forge their own path. “FINE” I quietly concede defeat to my husband in our imaginary argument, “You’ve won again…are you happy now?” I just had to get that last dig in after allowing him to gain the upper hand.
“That’s a great choice Abby, I just want to make sure you feel confident about taking on a book this large. I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed and not finish” I explained. “I love Peter Rabbit!” she gloated. “Peter Rabbit it is then” I took the book from her hands and put it with the books I had picked out for Cecilia. I then allowed Phoebe to pick out some of her own graphic novels and chapter books.
On our 90 mile drive back to the RV through the desert, she read a quarter of the mammoth book. If she keeps this up, we might be going back this weekend to pick up Anne of Green Gables after all. Two visits to a bookstore in one week…is it my birthday?