Wednesday, April 4, 2012

By the alarm clock light

As I child I had my fair share of embarrassments to shoulder - I wore hearing aids for a while.  I had bright pink knee braces.  I was a brace face.  I had a few bad perms and once sported a rat's tail.  I wore glasses, replete with bright red frames.
The hearing aids didn't last long - I have been partially deaf since birth and found hearing better to be more of a distraction than a benefit.  The knee braces were for my plethora of knee issues that ultimately ended up in two knee surgeries in my twenties.  I have no excuse for the perms or rat's tail, they were only two of my ill informed hairstyles.  But the glasses? They were all my fault.

Not only did I wear glasses, but I had to go through about six months of weekly eye therapy.  I would walk to the opthamologist's office at the end of our street and do a plethora of eye exercises that I assume were designed to strengthen my eye muscles in some way.  Why in the world would a gradeschooler have to work on their eye muscles?  Because I loved to read. 

My mother instilled a love of reading in both my brother and I that continues today.  When I get engrossed in a book the rest of my world melts away.  I read instead of doing laundry.  I read instead of keeping house.  I read waiting for appointments.  I read instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour.  I can read serious books - The Immoral Life of Henrietta Lacks or The Road.  But I also love books that just let me live in other worlds - The Hunger Games Trilogy or The Tea Rose Series.  Hell, I even got a little Twilight obsessed a few a summers back (that was really hard to admit).  I love books that give me a different perspective, introduce me to a new world or just keep me wanting more.  I like to learn new things just as much as I like to get lost in a little fluff. Reading is one of my great escapes. 
I remember being snuggled in my bed waiting for my mom to read to us when I was little.  We listened to poems by Shel Silverstein (I will not play at tug o' war, I'd rather play at hug o' war ...), we read all the classics: Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, Trumpet of the Swan, The Cricket in Times Square,  James and the Giant PeachRalph the Mouse.  I would listen to Mom read and I would be lost in the stories, in her voice, in different worlds.  To this day I still remember words from Dear Mr. Henshaw (de liver de letter de sooner de better de later de letter the madder I getter).

When I actually learned to read I couldn't wait for library day at school.  I loved visiting the Either Or Bookstore on North Street - both of my parents would let me sit there for hours flipping through pages, going to story hour, on occasion I even got to bring home a new book.  In fourth grade my very favorite part of the day was when my teacher would read aloud to us.  I distinctly remember listening to Island of the Blue Dolphin and wondering what my dog and I would do to survive on an island on our own.
My learning to read was a mixed blessing for my mom - on one hand it kept me occupied for hours, on the other hand I tuned out to the world.  I tuned out from my chores, my brain would be stuck in my book instead of focused on my school work or the conversation she was having with me.  Most importantly, her ten minute story time at night no longer cut for me.  I wanted to know what happened next in How to Eat Fried Worms or The Chocolate Touch.  I couldn't get enough of Freckle Juice, Ramona Quimby Age 8, Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing, The BFG or SuperFudge.  I would lay in bed and wonder what the next chapter would bring...until I figured out a solution.
Instead of laying in bed waiting and wondering, I finally decided to sneak a flashlight into my room, once I was tucked into bed and Mom was downstairs, I would grab the book we were reading, turn on my flashlight and start reading - it was a perfect solution until I got caught, was scolded and my flashlight was taken away. 
It took me a night or two to realize that my alarm clock had a lovely red glow that could illuminate my pages. Then I laid in bed, with my face and alarm clock as close as possible to the pages, devouring every word.  Not only would I read ahead in our bedtime books, but I would start reading my own books: Are you there God?  It's me Margaret, Blubber, The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins, Nancy Drew, The Box Car Children.
I read them all and so so so many more - by the red glow of my pink alarm clock.

Eventually my mother found out about my alarm clock and I am pretty sure that for awhile books had to be taken out of my room.  Not only was I ruining my eyes, but I was severely lacking sleep, which made me a not so enjoyable person.

I tell you all this as a way to say I think it may be genetically linked - the love of reading.  Addie has been read to since she was a week old.  One of our ultimate punishments is to take away her bed time stories.  She loves all sorts of books from board books to Fancy Nancy to Danny and the Dinosaur.  She likes shows about reading and she adores going to the library.  And, over the past few weeks, there have been many nights that we have found her in bed like this:

"Reading" by the light of her Cinderella nightlight.  Andy insists this is all my genetics at work, and I don't disagree.  I just hope she doesn't end up with months of eye therapy...

For that matter, I hope she doesn't have braces, hearing aids, knee braces or a rat's tail either.  


Sue said...

Maybe because I was a crazy nighttime reader as well, or maybe because I'm a mom now, but that photo of Addie got me all choked up!

Mich said...

she looks like such a big girl! and yes, please no rat tail....

Christie said...

A rat tail...really??