I too look forward to spending some quality time on The Mom’s deck with a pile of good books. This year I even planned ahead, fearing that the local library wouldn’t have the books I wanted to read in stock. They were new, hardback, and I was desperate to read them.
I have fond memories of spending the summers at home while I was studying for my PhD in Glasgow spent on the deck, in the blazing sun, reading to my heart’s content. Hours I can spend reading. Days. Though, this surely isn’t a shock as I am both a writer and a student of literature.
The thing that is shocking is that I struggled to read as a child. I couldn’t get the hang of it, in French or English. And I remember The Mom, upon learning that we weren’t being taught using phonics, dragging me to the local WH Smith’s and buying every workbook they had on the subject and making me do them all. We spent a lot of time on my reading. My Auntie even sent books she thought might catch my fancy and insisted that a book report was sent back, by post, each week to ensure another novel was forthcoming. Auntie had perhaps a different young girl in mind when she sent Black Beauty and Little Women, but nevertheless, The Mom made me read for several hours before I was allowed to escape into the pool.
I don’t remember exactly when reading finally clicked, but it did. What I do remember was being curled up in The Mom’s bed one afternoon (why I was in her bed and not my own is a mystery but probably down to the comforting and intoxicating smell of Vicks VapoRub – it’s what The Mom smells like and I associate it with her more than I do her perfume) reading a Nancy Drew book. One of the old yellow hardbacks, and my friend, who had a pet duck, came to call to see if I wanted to go run around in the woods and play outside. I refused to even go to the door. Because I was too engrossed in the book.
Fast forward to now, and I will not, if I have plans at any point in the day, start reading. I know myself. I won’t be able to talk properly. I’ll be in a strange, quiet, thoughtful mood and will be able to think only of what’s happening in the book. Plus, I like to read a full book in one or two goes if possible. I don’t just read for an hour or two in the afternoon. I read all day. It’s like binge watching box sets on Netflix, except with books. I’ll start in the morning, taking breaks only to pee and get another cup of tea, and I won’t stop until I’m done or the pangs of hunger are so bad that I feel faint.
I don’t normally read with a snack the way The Mom does. I can’t concentrate. I’ve never been good at multi-tasking. I must have complete focus. The only exception is a drink – tea or water. Nothing else. But this is how I am with most things, so it’s not as austere as it sounds.
Anyhow, my choice in reading material is obviously different from The Mom’s. Some of her trashy novels she’s foisted upon me and I’ve rather enjoyed them. But I like different things, different subjects, and very different authors. I’ve tried to get her to read some of what I’m reading, but it usually doesn’t end well. I’m desperate for her to read The Goldfinch, but when I told her how long it was she balked.
What I really look forward to when I come home for the summer reading session is when The Mom and I are out on the back deck together reading. Because, depending on what she’s reading, for The Mom, it’s not always a silent, solitary activity.
She’ll burst out laughing and I can see her looking toward me out of the corner of her eye. I know she’s lying in wait, desperate to tell me something, and I pretend to be as engrossed as possible, to see how long she can wait before erupting into chatter.
“You have to listen to this,” she’ll say, thumbing back a few pages. “It’s hilarious!”
She will then proceed to read me a few choice paragraphs. If the book is really good – say the new David Sedaris that I brought home – most of the book will be read aloud to me in this way. That I’ve already read it misses the point entirely. The Mom’s delight is unstoppable.
She’s always been this way with books. And what I think is slightly unusual is that Crazy D and L’il Sis didn’t turn out to be voracious readers or writers too. The Mom is always with book. They are piled up on the kitchen table, in her nest, on the stairs, you name it. Sometimes there’s even a bag riding around in the car ready to go back to the library.
Though I may not share her taste in reading material, I love that our house has always had that quiet, bookish atmosphere. Wherever I live now is the same. There’s never any music on, and most surfaces are covered with books.