Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Finger Flicking Good

I recently discovered something.  I don't like reading books online.  Don't misread that last sentence.  I like reading books.  I like it a lot.  Truthfully, I'd rather read a book than watch TV, but by the time I get through my day, work out, get the kids clean and tucked into bed, I'm exhausted.  I just want to turn off the lights and let the glow of the idiot box fill the room.  I flop down on the couch and veg out until my eyes just won't stay opened.  The thought of turning on a light bright enough for my coke-bottle glassed eyes to actually see small black print on an ecru page gives me a migraine.  I would love to read a good book during the day when there is plenty of natural light to read comfortable by, but with a 1- and 4-year old with me all day, I don't get a lot of chances to read books that don't rhyme and have a picture of a cat wearing the same ridiculous striped hat my husband used to wear when he went skiing in high school.  I can't count the number of pages that have been ripped out of books and magazines by pudgy, sticky fingers covered in cheese dust from fish crackers while I sit trying to read them.  It's a pointless exercise.

I remember the first book that truly moved me.  It was Amelia Bedelia.  Specifically, it was the part of the story where she "dusted" the living room with the expensive dusting powder she found in the bathroom.  In her family they "undusted" the furniture but, when in Rome. To my 4-year-old mind this seemed like a great idea.  I was moved to action.  I found a container of baby powder and began sprinkling it into all the places upstairs that might need some freshening up.  I sprinkled a little in the hamper, some in the closet, a touch in the bed sheets.  Then I moved across the hall to freshen up the bathroom.  My mother suddenly realized that I had been upstairs for several minutes and was very quiet.  She stood at the bottom of the stairs with the trepidation of a mom that is not yet sure of the disaster that surely awaits her and began to speak.  "Kiiiiimmm, what are you....."  Her sentence was interrupted by a blast of overpowering sweet fragrance wafting down the stairs in a powdery, white cloud.  She ran up the stairs and found me at the top with a nearly empty container of baby powder under one arm, Amelia Bedelia under the other and a big, proud smile on my face.  The entire second floor was covered in a fine dust that was quickly settling in between the slats of the hardwood floors. My mother was so furious that she couldn't even spank me.  She took away the powder and the book and sent me downstairs.  Every few minutes I would hear a cry of, "What the!  It's in the...!"  She never finished shrieking any of her sentences.  I've never seen my mother so mad.  But the house never smelled so sweet.

When I was a kid a couple of my friends and I had a book club.  We each had a binder where we would list all of the books we read.   (Yeah, we were super cool.)  We would get star stickers and had to write book reports.  I was certainly the slacker of the book club.  My friends out-read me all the time.  I remember thinking to myself, "Why are we wasting the summer reading books when Heather has a pool!?!"  It really annoyed me that we couldn't swim until we finished our book club meeting.  I remember the final book club meeting that I attended with them.  I had only read two books that week compared to their five.  I'm pretty sure I lied about reading the two books.  I wasn't taking the book club seriously and they were considering taking official action to kick me out.  I remember saying something along the lines of, "Stop forcing me to read!  It's not fun when I have to write book reports just to play with my friends!"  I don't know how much longer the book club lasted after that, just that I was never invited to another meeting.  Maybe I should have tried a little harder.  My friends are now successful and well read while I'm a house wife perusing my extensive library of Fancy Nancy, Pinkalicius and Golden Books.

When we were a bit older, my father started reading books out loud in the evening to the family.  He would read a couple of chapters each night from books like "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" or "Animal Farm."  I loved listening to my Dad read.  His voice was so deep and clear that it was easy to picture Jonathan diving at top speeds through the sky, or Snowball leading a revolution.  It terrified me to think that animals could rise up and revolt against their human keepers, but I really enjoyed listening to my dad read.  It was worth the nightmares and unrelenting fear of pigs.  I think that's why I don't eat sausage.

In middle school, we started reading really good books; the classics.  The first book I read in school that I really loved was "The Hobbit" by J. R. R. Tolkien.  A short while later, my Uncle Tom loaned me his copy of "The Chronicles of Narnia."  I love reading the chapter about the creation of Narnia.  Long before it was made into a fantastic movie, I had a very clear image of the huge and powerful lion, Asland, in my mind.  A few years ago, my Mother bought me a hard copy of the Narnia collection.  About once a year I take it off the shelf and my husband and I read it out loud to each other.  I can't wait for my kids to be old enough to enjoy it.

Just this past Valentine's Day my husband bought me the two volume set of Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Romantic, no?  The romantic part wasn't so much the books, as the promise to give me time all by myself to read them.  These books will remain free of all fish cracker dust.  Plus, they bring back fond memories of my logic class in college.  I don't really remember much about the class except that we got to read Sherlock Holmes and that "the men in white coats" came for the professor one day.  We never saw him again.

I like to hold a book in my hands.  I tried to force myself into the 21st century and recently brought my laptop into the living room to find a good book to read online while the kids were playing.  I started reading "The Time Machine" by H. G. Wells.  Reading a classic from a screen is just not the same.  The gentle glow of the LCD screen just can't duplicate the smell of a paperback book whose pages have been pressed tight together for so many years. 

Where are we going with this technology?  I understand that it's convenient, cheap, and probably saves a few trees.  But I don't care.  I've seen the Kindle commercials where people are sliding their finger across the screen to "turn" the page.  Do we really want to replace the sentiment of "that book was a real page turner," with "that book was a real finger flicker."  It's just not the same.  Hope you found this entry finger-flicking good.

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