I signed my kids up for the summer reading program at the library today. K wants to log enough hours for a small stuffed dog. Last summer it was a hula hoop. I don’t remember prizes when I was kid. I do remember coloring 50 segments of a dragon poster, one for each book I read. I finished it easily. Now, reading 50 books (if I don’t count picture books read over and over) in a full year is a feat.
When my girls were infants, I read more than I expected. I was sitting for hours a day feeding a baby, and I could read while I did that. When K was a baby, I reread childhood favorites mostly: Little House on the Prairie, Little Women, A Little Princes, The Secret Garden . . . When E was born, I jumped around reading gardening and food books, memoirs, and mysteries. I read late at night when I should have gone to bed and during nap time and in the pale dark morning light. Then they grew and started to interact and move, and my reading slowed down again.
Still, I keep a stack of books by my chair. Usually at least one has one of E’s watercolor bookmarks in it. I read at night, and if it’s a particularly gripping book, I keep reading in any spare moment I can find. I had just wrapped up Unbroken before vacation, but the beach has not been book friendly to me for years.
Then came last week. My sisters stacked beach chairs and boogie boards in the car, while I made sandwiches and packed up the towels and sunscreen. I don’t know what made me do it, but I tucked a book in my bag, shoving it under a towel as though I didn’t want anyone to see it.
Last year, I couldn’t imagine ever reading at the beach again. And yet this year, I packed a book—and I read a chapter.
I chose carefully, mind you. Molly Wizenberg’s Delancey has short chapters. It isn’t deep or complicated. You don’t need to follow a complex narrative. It’s interesting but not so gripping you can’t put it down.
I read a chapter of a book at the beach, and it felt like a small miracle. I’m coming out of a time when I couldn’t imagine reading the beach or making dinner while my kids played outside or writing several times a week, all things that I’ve settled into this year.
Looking ahead to this vacation, I was excited to get a dose of the ocean. As I drove, I realized too that I was also looking forward to having help. My kids would run with their cousins instead of telling me they were bored. My sisters would deal with a meltdown while I got dinner on plates or send somebody back to bed while I organized stuff for the beach the next day. We’d all see what needed to be done and step in and do it. So even though I was still figuring out meals and changing the little girl who wet the bed, even though I was packing for the beach and finishing the grocery list, it felt like vacation. I got a little break. I laughed. I was in one of my favorite places with my clan. And I got to read.
What are you reading this summer? (Or what’s in your want to read stack?)