Archive for August, 2010

Read All About It

I have been reading for as long as I can recall.  Raised by two former educators (one an English teacher, no less), I was surrounded by books my entire life.  I feel certain that I was read to in utero.  One of the weightiest memories, pun intended, was the reading of one of my dad’s American history textbooks.  It was dubbed “The Heavy Book” in our house, because at the age of 3 or 4, I couldn’t really lift it.  I learned at a young age about Washington crossing the Delaware, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, the Civil Rights Movement and so much more.  My love of learning and reading can be directly traced to that book, in my mind.   

Books still play an integral role in my family, and in my own life.  Every year, for both birthday and Christmas, there is a Barnes and Noble gift card, tucked into a new bestseller.  I read on a daily basis, for pleasure.  I’m in a book club.  And I share my finds with friends, parents, and strangers.  However, reading and “books” have blurred in recent years.  About a year ago, I was gifted a Kindle.  I love the handiness for travel and the ability to choose a new book as soon as I hear about it or finish my last read.  Yet, as much as I enjoy knowing that a 50 page book and a 1,000 page tome will weigh the same, and that there will be no glare if I’m sitting on a remote beach (one can dream…), there’s nothing that replaces a tangible book.  When at home, I read a real book.  I troll bookstores for fun on weekends…and on the occasional date (that’s a sure sign he might be a keeper).  I am still obsessed with new hardcovers: the perfect crisp pages, the smell of the paper, my sight unwillingness to bend the spine, and my definite unwillingness to mark the pages.  Books bring a sense of joy to me that remains unrivaled.

My favorite book, and one that has impacted me greatly, is To Kill a Mockingbird.  I actually did not read it until I was in college.  (Please do not let my 10th grade English teacher see this.)   However, I re-read every year or so, and lose myself in the characters.  One of my most treasured gifts is a beautiful hardcover edition of the novel, inscribed by my parents, encouraging me to dare to be great and to never lose the innocence of the first time I opened the book. 

Reading is also fiercely personal.  While I know that I’m not the only person (maybe not even the only one reading this blog…)whose favorite read is Harper Lee’s only novel, I do know that not every book I like will be loved by my friends, and vice versa.  The book club I mentioned a few paragraphs ago is reading my selection next month: Same Kind of Different as Me.  While I hope that everyone adores it and embraces it as I have, the reality is that they won’t.  I won’t be wounded.  That’s why Barnes and Noble is eleventy-billion square feet; to house all of the books that someone will love.

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Be. Here. Now.

Congratulations, first and foremost.  Congratulations on your upcoming wedding; yes, I do love that Tiffany setting.  Congratulations on your third child; yes, I too am certain he’ll be accepted to Julliard shortly after his birth.  Congratulations on your spacewalk; I’m so glad it worked out better for you than Lance Bass.

I find myself congratulating others a lot.  And I am genuinely happy for the great news they so freely share with me.  However, often, after the moment of shared joy has passed, there’s an emptiness that remains.  The emptiness of the feeling that while those around me are marrying up, and popping out kids, and becoming partner in the firm…I’m just here.  No, thanks for asking, I’m not seeing anyone.  No, no kids yet.  I sometimes feel bad for having to admit these “shortcomings.”

And then, a voice in my head begins to repeat, a mantra of sorts. “Be. Here. Now.”  A friend shared these wise words with me at a very difficult time in my life.  Her father had impressed them upon her as a child.  And when these words resound in my head, I remember that I am here.  I do matter, with or without the diamond or the baby on my hip.  I’m not promising that every time I hear the good news of others I drop into a child’s pose and chant.  It’s not always an a-ha moment.  Often, probably more than I’d like to admit, I’m jealous.  Or that emptiness creeps in.  But then, I remember: I’m here.  For a reason.  And, most importantly, now is what I have. 

“Don’t let your mind get weary and confused
Your will be still, don’t try
Don’t let your heart get heavy child
Inside you there’s a strength that lies

Don’t let your soul get lonely child
It’s only time, it will go by
Don’t look for love in faces, places
It’s in you, that’s where you’ll find kindness

Be here now, here now
Be here now, here now”  – Ray Lamontage, Be Here Now

So, here I am.  Trusting in myself and this moment, rather than wishing to be a part of someone else’s timing.  All that I have is my here and my now.  It’s up to me to make the most of it.

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We’ve all seen the t-shirts, tasted the potato salad, met cousins for the first time.  Yes, summer in the South is family reunion season.  I’ve seen a number of large contingents in Little Rock recently, and heard of many friends headed to reunions at the lakehouse, the Ozark cabin, and other exotic Southern locales.

In all of my 28 years, I’ve been to one family reunion.  And I really don’t remember it, but I’ve seen the pictures to prove I was there.  I’m sure as a toddler that summer day, I was kissed and prodded and blessed by those I’d never met and those I have sadly forgotten.  But these days, my family reunion could take place in a phone booth.  There are three of us.  A mom, a dad, and a me.  My mom has a brother, who has a wife and two grown children like me.  My dad too was an only child.  And my sweet, sweet grandparents have all moved onto a Heavenly home.  So, a phone booth would do it.  We wouldn’t be able to eat much, but we’d fit.  And, as close as I am to those six others that I truly call family, I know we’d have a great time.

Because my family is so small, it’s always been fiercely close.  I would typically choose to hang out with, travel with, share a meal with my mom or dad over almost any other option.  My cousin and I were raised almost as brother and sister, as we are so close in age and spent many a day together at our grandparents’ house.  My younger cousin was the first baby I ever saw, and my aunt was the first woman I remember being pregnant.  We ate meals together nearly every Sunday of my childhood.  Holidays were easy and fun.  I have always known love, and, after all, isn’t that what makes a family?

I’ve also never been sad to be an only child.  I’m blessed with many others around me, both blood relatives and friends, who have never let me feel lonely.  I plan to have an only child.  After all, it’s a legacy in my family.  Granted, I don’t know the joys of sisters and brothers.  I don’t know the difficulty of sharing bathrooms, sharing shoes, sharing secrets.  I don’t have a maid-of-honor by default.  And, I won’t have anyone with whom to divide sorrows as I grow older.  But, and especially because I can’t, I wouldn’t change it.  Being an only child introduced me at a very young age to myself.  It made me deeply independent, self-aware, and self-assured.  But not selfISH. 

I’ve often been given sympathy for my only child “affliction.”  And always tried to overcome stereotypes of being spoiled, snobby, indulged.  I’ve never needed sympathy, and I hope I’ve never acted spoiled.  Only children can lead fabulously normal lives.  Personally, I dislike the word normal, but that’s another blog post…and I continue to live the only life I know.

Today’s shoes: Anything in a size 9.  I don’t have a sister who will be borrowing them.

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