The Joy of Reading

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My favorite collection. From the 1800’s

I’ve always loved reading. I’m not sure why, though they do say that children who are read to have a great chance of becoming avid readers. I don’t remember much about my early childhood. My mother died when I was 5, and they say that tragedy can sometimes block memories. Perhaps that’s why I only have a few memories from that time. I do, however, remember being read to. I also come from a long line of readers. My dad and his mother, my grandma (when she was still alive) are adamant readers. I don’t know if my mom read, but my stepmom is an adamant reader as well.

I remember a dear family friend of ours, her name is Amy Carr, reading Bible stories to me. I remember her helping me try to understand my mother’s death. Helping me to be optimistic that she wasn’t truly gone forever. I remember someone, not sure who, reading the book Are You My Mother?, by P.D. Eastman, to me. And I remember being read several Golden Books and Sesame Street books. And my favorite Golden Book, Where Did The Baby Go? by Colleen T. Hayes.My favorites are still here, in my children’s library.

But most of all, I remember being read to by my cousins, Gretchen and Elizabeth. They would read me my favorite books, Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski and Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. These books were later purchased by me, to read to my children. Once my oldest could read, he read Shel Silverstein books until the pages literally fell out and I had to replace them.

As a young girl I still loved to read. My Aunt Toni would send me care packages, and with them, more books. Some of my favorite books came from her. Behind The Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassidy is probably my favorite book of all time, and it’s one that she sent to me. During that time, I also loved the Sweet Valley Twins book series. I can remember my parents taking me to the bookstore (I know I said my mother died, so not to confuse you, my dad did remarry when I was 10 lol) and letting me choose a book to buy. Sometimes we went to used bookstores, and sometimes we went to new ones. When we went to new ones I could get the next Sweet Valley Twins book. I can remember how excited I was. I’d go home and read the book in one sitting! I can remember my dad telling me to pick a longer book because I’d read them so quickly.

As a teenager, I kept reading. I moved on to teen books. I moved from the Sweet Valley Twins to the Sweet Valley High book series. I also read every book by Christopher Pike that I could get my hands on. And once I was old enough, my stepmom let me start reading her books. My favorites were by V.C. Andrews.

As an adult, I just kept reading. My library continued to grow. I read a lot of Stephen King. I love mystery and horror. I love Toni Morrison. I love Charles Dickens. I love reading. In general.

But over the years, as I focused on my career and then building my family, I stopped reading somewhere along the way. I just stopped having time. I would still occasionally buy a book, thinking I’d get to it eventually. But for years, I never did. Until recently.

My daughter’s first birthday party arrived, and all of our loved ones were there. Including several of my friends whom I don’t see regularly. We were talking and one of us said something about starting a book club, and the others remembered the book club we had started many, many years ago. I don’t think it lasted too long, maybe a few months. But it was a great idea. A book club. A reason to get together with my very best friends once a month. A reason to read again.

I wasn’t sure I’d have the time, but I committed – because I wanted to have the time. I get lost in books. It’s like a vacation for me. I love everything about reading. I really do. And it’s not just the stories that I love, it’s the books. I have zero interest in a Kindle. I want to feel the weight of the book. I want to smell the fresh paper. I want to view the cover of it every time I pick it up.

And so, the first month of our bookclub began, and I read that book in record time. I started making time for myself. Time to read. Time that, I may have used to clean out a closet, I instead sat down and read. Instead of rushing through a shower, I took a bath and spent 15 minutes reading. I started giving my kids playtime in their room for half an hour when the baby goes down for a nap. I sit right outside their room, and I read while they play.

I read the book so quickly that I felt like something was missing. So I got another book. And that’s the one I’m reading now. It’s a paperback, and when I opened it, it was like I’d stepped back in time. The smell of the book took me back to when I was 9 years old, coming home from the bookstore with a new book my parents had bought for me. Sitting down in my room, excited to read the story. The smell was the same. They don’t all smell the same, but this particular one smelled just like that.

And so, I read. I will continue to make this time for myself and to relax and to do something I love. I will continue to make reading a priority. Sometimes we let life get in the way. It’s not that we aren’t choosing ourselves, but we allow the importance of other things – our jobs, our spouses, our children, our duties and obligations – to take extreme precedence over ourselves. To make some time for yourself is not a bad thing. I am still struggling with that. Even now, as a grown woman who can make her own decisions, I feel guilty. Guilty reading when I could be cleaning. Doing laundry. Planning meals. But at the end of the day, I know that not making time for ourselves, not allowing ourselves to relax and enjoy something, is incredibly unhealthy.

So find something that you love to do. And then do it. And don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t feel like choosing yourself occasionally is a bad thing. Making time for yourself is actually the best thing you can do for yourself, the people you love, and the world. Because someone who never does that isn’t healthy. And is too stressed. And can become short-tempered, have difficulty sleeping, and are unhappy. And if we do only get this one life, I think we should make it a good one.

My library, and some of my favorite collections.

 

4 Replies to “The Joy of Reading”

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