Thursday, April 22, 2010

Perfect Reading Days

I love remembering perfect reading days. Some reading days are perfect because of what I am reading—how could any day that I get to read Sarah Addison Allen be a bad reading day? But other days are perfect because of the atmosphere I’m in while I’m reading. The book being good is an added bonus, but the atmosphere is what I remember--and the atmosphere is what I'm celebrating today. Based on atmosphere alone, here are my top five perfect reading days:

5. Family Camping Trip
This one is the vaguest of the memories I have because I don’t remember how old I was or where exactly we were… but one summer while my family was camping (a pretty regular summer tradition for us back then), I spent my days sitting outside in a lawn chair and reading. Book after book. I don’t even remember what books I was reading, but since I know I was young-ish (9-12 range), they were probably not incredibly long or in-depth books. Even with all the vagueness surrounding the memory, what is crystal clear is the feeling I had as I was sitting in nature and completely losing myself in books. As soon as I finished one, I got another because I never wanted the feeling to end. For me, everything physically surrounding me disappeared: the mosquitos (even as they were eating me alive), the humidity, the heat—everything but the sounds of nature to add a soundtrack for my reading.

4. College, freshmen year

When I was a freshman in college, a friend loaned me some Frank Peretti books. I devoured three books in one weekend, and while I enjoyed the books, I remember even more clearly the sensation that I was being taken away as I read. My mind went fuzzy and forgot all the stress that had been building up about my first semester of college and everything that goes with college life, and I just was. In the background, I had my Enya Paint the Sky with Stars CD playing so that even now when I hear Enya, I’m immediately taken back to that place where I was as I sat in my bed and read word after word, sentence after sentence, chapter after chapter, book after book while the world melted away from me.

3. Alaskan week
This past summer, I was a little stressed. My family and I had done our second cross-country move in just over two years, and I was starting a brand new job while my husband was still, for all intents and purposes, jobless. I was miserable because stress was tearing away my ability to enjoy what I did have while I worried about what we didn’t have figured out yet. When my sister mentioned she was thinking about going to Alaska to visit our dad, my husband jumped online and bought me a plane ticket. I didn’t complain. During my week in Alaska, I got to do absolutely nothing. I say I got to as in I was able to—I was able to kick back, not think about anything and just enjoy. [Insert satisfied sigh here.] While the majority of my week was devoted to defeating the world of Peggle, I was able to spend some time reading and doing crossword puzzles. I didn’t read so much that I read entire books, but when I did read, it was perfect.

2. Sunday morning with Sarah
A little over a week ago, my friend Sarah came to Texas for a weekend to visit her family. Since her family only lives a couple hours from where I now live, I happily jumped in my car and drove down to see her. We spent our “girls’ night out” on Saturday night at the local Barnes & Noble, where I perused the young readers’ section and found some gems to bring home with me. On Sunday morning, we woke up and gathered around the kitchen table for breakfast. Sarah and her parents were reading the papers, and I got out one of the books I had bought the night before—a book called Frindle by Andrew Clements (which I enjoyed so much that I’m thinking about requiring my students to read it to start discussions on language). 

Once Sarah finished with the paper, she also got out one of her new books, and we spent our day together reading. It’s marvelous to have people like Sarah in my life who understand that sometimes the best quality time you can spend with a person can be spent reading. It’s even better that our tastes in books are so similar because I know I can always turn to her for book suggestions if I’m looking for something new to read. After I finished Frindle, I got out How to Train Your Dragon. As both Sarah and I read our books, we’d throw out ideas brought up by the books or read a great quote out loud, but other than that, we just read.  You know it’s a good day when you can relax and read two entire books before noon while enjoying a dear friend’s company.

And my number one perfect reading day memory is...

1. Eiffel Tower
When I was living in Germany, my sister came over to visit, and we decided to take a day trip to Paris. We went to Belgium the night before to visit a friend of mine, and then we took a train to Paris in the morning. I love traveling with my sister because she is exactly like me when it comes to seeing a new place: There are certain things we wanted to see, but more than anything else, we just wanted to be able to soak up the atmosphere of the city. 

We spent the majority of our day in Paris sitting on a park bench right by the Eiffel Tower and reading. The day was a gorgeous spring day, and the sounds of the people enjoying the park—laughter, dogs barking, conversations in so many different languages I lost count—filled my spirit and enhanced the words that were seeping from the pages and into my mind. Every once in a while I’d stop reading and look up just to make sure I was still really there by the Eiffel Tower. Thinking back on that day, that atmosphere, reminds me of just how blessed I’ve been. Perfect day, perfect atmosphere, perfect company, perfect reading. That memory is, in a phrase, 'joie de lire.'

My nostalgia for my perfect reading days is making me look forward to the possibility of having another perfect reading day just around the corner. Could it be today? Or tomorrow? That’s the great thing about perfect reading days—they sneak up on you and present themselves in the randomest of ways. Any day could be a perfect reading day.

Have you had a perfect reading day lately? What’s the best reading day you can remember?

Happy 'joie de lire'!

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