There is a natural impulse to tally up the year as it draws to a close, and consider what made it memorable, valuable or character-building. It’s a time to pull away from the small concerns and worries of day to day living, and focus on the larger themes or arcs of our lives. It’s the closest that I get to willingly and successfully shrugging off any sense of routine for a time, while I take stock of the year that has been and take aim at the year that might/will be.
The past year feels like it was a significant one for our family, one particularly worth noting, and it appears all the more so when considered from this vantage point. Viewed from almost any other point during the year I might have noted that it felt momentous, but really it would have been easiest to characterize it as challenging, difficult, chaotic or draining. The achievements or milestones would have been too easily clouded by the many things that I, individually, or we, as a family, never did or completed. There are only so many hours in a day, yet it’s all too easy to be tortured by what we didn’t accomplish than it is to celebrate what we have done. At least, I know for me that is true.
I struggle mightily to make peace with the fact that we can’t do everything that we need or would like to be able to do. And yet I also recognize that we can only do a very few things well (even extremely well, if we really work at it), or many things not very well at all. I’d truly rather do one or two or – if I’m lucky – three things well than dabble in all manner of things to no great effect, but it doesn’t make the necessary narrowing of focus any easier. Even though, in fact, I weed out extraneous information or keep my involvement in many matters more superficial, in order to preserve time / energy / motivation for the things that I most need and/or want to do. I do this without even thinking about it, as I suspect most people do.
The thing that gives me greatest pleasure when I think about my family, is the fact that we love books. There are so many things that we are not, but we love to read, together and individually. When nothing else is working, we can usually stop and share a book together, and that shared experience can smooth out all kinds of rough corners. Tonight we read another chapter of one of our current family books, Possessing Genius: The True Account of the Bizarre Odyssey of Einstein’s Brain; on another day we would have picked up where we last left off in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. That shared story rounded out the day in a way that little else can, and left us looking forward to the next time we sit down together to share one of our books.
Of course, we all have our own books on the go too, and we’ll take them wherever we might be headed, indoors or out.
We read them at home or on holiday, in the middle of the day or at night, wherever and whenever we find a few quiet moments.
Our dog, Reggie, seems to fit right into the rhythms of reading and curls up or crashes out somewhere nearby. At the moment, the end of the day often finds Reggie, my husband and myself crammed into the small lower bunk of our youngest son’s bed (we’re reading The Subtle Knife, the second in Philip Pullman’s amazing trilogy). Normally we’d all object to so many of us crammed into such a small space, but it works because we’re caught up in a great story together.
I’ve written here before about the fact that at any one time I might have seven or eight books on the go, between our family books, the books I’m reading to my younger son, and whatever I’m reading myself, and this is evidenced by the small reading table beside my chair in the living room.
Both the table and the chair were found at local antique shops after moving to our small town a few years ago. The chair has an unusual, diminutive scale, and is just right for me somehow (though I’m not an especially or unusually ‘small’ person). Its fabric is kind of retro and ageless at the same time, and while it’s not something I’d have chosen myself, it tones in quite well with the space it occupies, and sits nicely next to the blue trunk that was one of the first pieces of furniture owned by my parents after they were married.
That chair isn’t the only place I read, but it’s definitely the place I associate with reading most, and it’s definitely one of my very favourite spots in our home. I’ve spent many happy hours there, and I’m hoping to spend many more in that very same place, with a good book or two.