It’s better this way. I wasn’t getting anything done.
The kids are in Karate and I sit in the waiting room, trolling my friends’ Facebook pages because I’m nosy and neglecting to “like” or comment because…let’s face it, I’m lazy today. A little girl in the room, about 4, is talking in a decidedly “outside” voice. Her teen sister is determined to assist her in utilizing “inside” voice. Both of them have talked with me on other days, so I join the conversation.
“My son couldn’t figure out how to whisper either, but here’s how he got it. Put your hand on your throat like this.” I demonstrate. The tiny blonde copies. “Now say something. Anything.” She says a few nonsense words. “Did you feel the vibration?” Her eyes widen as she nods.
“When you whisper, you just use breath. There’s no vibration. Try that.” She has a sudden attack of shyness and turns away, but the next time she speaks, it’s in a whisper. I give her a thumbs up and a wink. “Nice,” I say. She gives me a thumb-n-wink back. Cutest thing I’ve seen all day.
Their mother sweeps into the room, coughing. “I’m freezing. All day, I’ve been shivering. I must be sick.” She sits down, twelve inches from me, snatching up her daughter’s blankie and wrapping it around her shoulders. This is not cute.
Catching the flu is not convenient right now. Or ever, for that matter. I wait until they are engrossed in conversation, then move my things to a nook around the corner. Swift and silent. Like Batman. Batgirl. Batwoman? They don’t notice.
I’ve never been on this side of the L-shaped room before. Once, I visited a former monastery. The room in which I stayed sported a plain wooden desk, small bed and blank cinder-block walls. This corner feels a bit like the monastery, sans bed. The office chair is a nice upgrade.
So here I sit, tucked under a little wooden desk with nothing but my laptop and a white block wall in front of me. I recently began reading Annie Dillard‘s The Writing Life, in which she describes (among other things) the places she likes to write. She once pulled the cover down on the lone window of her writing hideout, then drew a picture of what she knew to be outside and taped it to the blind.
I like Annie for several reasons.
1. She has never shared the flu with me.
2. Her descriptions make me smile.
3. She has unfailing, semi-snarky wit.
4. Her writing makes me want to write. (In fact, I really want to go sit next to her and wait for her to say something. Anything. But…it’s not going to happen. She’s not interested in meeting new people—being famous probably gets old after a while—so I’ll have to settle for listening to her book.)
After hearing the sketches of her writing spaces, I dream of building a little nook in our tiny side attic. Logic and rationale convince me this is not feasible, but it’s a fun dream. I once saw a picture of C. S. Lewis’ attic and thought, “no wonder he wrote such fabulous fantasy.”
Also, it appears that he really had a wardrobe. I have no wardrobe, but in place of a nightstand, I have an antique sewing table. The top opens like a trap door. The unfortunate truth is that I will never fit myself through the Singer-sized hole. Unless…was it the drink or the cake that Alice used to shrink?
I’ve quoted him before, but Stephen King has some great quotes about reading, like this one:
Being swept away by a combination of great story and great writing…is part of every writer’s necessary formation. You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you. So we read to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us to recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them. We also read in order to measure ourselves against the good and the great, to get a sense of all that can be done. And we read in order to experience different styles.
In recent weeks, I’ve been writing less but reading more. Sometimes we just need to take the time to be “swept away,” as he says.
Last night, I read one of my favorite childhood stories to our kids. Rikki Tikki Tavi, by Rudyard Kipling. Click that link (Carnegie Mellon University provides the original text) and read it to yourself or children of any age in your life. I’d forgotten how funny it is, how R. K. describes everything in detail through the jaunty mongoose.
As I read to my kiddos, listening to my son belly-laugh at the dotty bird, dopey muskrat and evil cobra (and yes, I do voices; not well, but I do them) and watching my daughter’s eyes widen at the bathroom fight scene, I realized something.
I love to read. I’m a little obsessed, actually. Hubby and I have worked hard to foster their love of books. But in recent months, as they’ve finally become more independent, I’ve forgotten to read them stories. We all love stories. I listen to books on Audible.com because having someone read a book to me (and read it well) is one of my life’s great joys. And in the busyness of life, I’ve been overlooking that gift to them.
So far, no signs of catching the flu from that crazy woman. If it does rear its ugly head, I will do my best to keep it away from the kids. I do, however, want to pass on a different kind of “germ.” To give them a fever for books. Infecting children with the love of story is so important.
What was your favorite childhood story? The one that brings a smile to your face, stirs old emotions, takes you back. Share with us, so we can all read them to our children. Let’s transfuse this virus!
And now, go read to someone special.