Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chapter Time

I tiptoe across the floor of my room, trying to force the sound of my footsteps into the plush white carpet. Swinging the door open carefully, so as not to hit the side of the crib, I glance down and see tufts of blonde hair peeking out from under fleece Mickey Mouse blankets. Gentle snores grumble through a snotty nose. Closing the door behind me, I chuckle at the thought that not many college seniors share their room with a toddler... especially when the child is not their own. I step into the hall and overhear Dad's playful call in the girls' room: “Alright! Who's ready for Chapter Time!” Giggling, the two girls jump into their beds and Mom pulls the blankets up around their chubby cheeks as Dad settles back with a picture book. Heading downstairs to work on homework, I smile as the ever-familiar deep hum of his voice follows me down.

Growing up, “Chapter Time” was family time. I have to admit, this was a clever move on my parents' part. They had been struggling to make us stay in bed at night, and realized that we settled down much better if they read to us before we fell asleep. What started as a toddler anecdote became family tradition. Every night, without fail, my brothers and I would line up on my parents' bed and Dad would read us a single chapter. Series after series, book after book: Chronicles of Narnia, the Light of Eidon, the Hobbit. Tales of adventure and love, of heroes that would go to the ends of the earth (or another world) to ensure that truth and light prevails. This was always the favorite part of my day. Even Dad's business trips couldn't stop us! He would pack the current book in his suitcase, and we would huddle around the speakerphone at night and listen to his familiar—yet slightly more metallic—voice. I knew that voice by heart. I would snuggle up next to him, his “Girl Squirrel,” and lay my head on his chest. As he spoke, I could hear the words as much through the air as through his being, the beat of his heart keeping pace. When not snuggled up, my father and I even worked out an elaborate foot-massage system: we would sit with our feet aiming at each other and rub the other person's feet while he read. Now that seems an unusual memory. However, I have always loved foot rubs.

Around the age of thirteen or fourteen, I found myself “maturing”—Chapter Time was losing its luster. I came to the decision that I was far too old to still have my Dad to read to me, so the night came that I ignored my dad's call to join. Sitting proudly alone in my room, I heard my father and brothers together, the stories continuing as they always would. Proud and sulking... as much as I wanted to grow up, I didn't want to be left out.

Not long after, Chapter Time slowly slipped out of the family routine.

As a fruit from being read to, I became an avid reader. I was taught an appreciation for the written word at a young age. A very young age. Competitive and stubborn by nature, I insisted that my mother teach me to read at three years old, only because she had begun teaching my 6-year-old brother. (Just as an aside: we also graduated with our Associate's at the same time. I never grew out of the competitiveness.) Later on, as homeschooled daughter of a writer, my education was severely lacking in the areas of math and science, but was rich in novels. I read every copy of Nancy Drew in our local library, and even tried to start my own Babysitter's Club named “Baby Blues,” which for some reason never took off. While my friends were starting to get in trouble for kissing boys and watching R-rated movies, I got in trouble for sneaking flashlights and reading until the wee hours of the morning. I had the capacity to read my mom's 450-page World War II novel, From Dust and Ashes, in one sitting, and always hungered for more. I knew the cover of every book on each of the five bookshelves in our house, and realized that the old saying is beyond wrong, because you CAN judge a book by its cover. Or, at least I did. If the cover didn't catch my eye—if I didn't feel a glimmer of excitement from holding the weight of it in my hands—I would stuff it right back on the shelf and never give it a second glance.

Though my summer reading list was pages long, I realized that I had somehow avoided reading the “classics.” To Kill a Mockingbird still sits in a pile under my bed, never read more than two pages deep. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite movie, but I've never read a written word of Jane Austen. My Kindle library is growing long with the list of traditional books, but I have yet to read them. Free Kindle books made it easy to stock up on traditional titles. I considered feeling guilty about it for a while, until I recently heard a classmate mention that she had to read the Scarlet Letter seven times during her high school career. I felt so grateful for the variety and freedom I held in pursuing any book I so desired. Maybe this educational independence has stuck with me more than I know, as I have continued to avoid the expected career path and am majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies. I could choose what I wanted to read, now I can choose what I want to study.

My whole family is undergoing an adjustment period right now. My parents recently acquired a 2-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl from the foster care system. Once you add them to my 18-year old brother, myself, and our already-adopted 2-year-old sister, the number of “kids” living at home now amounts to five. While ever-unorganized chaos reigns in my home, and I have discovered that doing homework has become a nearly-impossible task, I feel so blessed to know that the fountain of love pouring out of my parents is nowhere close to dry. More mouths to feed, more clothes to clean.

More hearts to love,
          more books to read.


  1. Wow, you are so blessed and loved. How lucky you are to belong to such an amazing family.
    Jane Eyre is one of my favorite classics---I highly recommend it!

  2. Those classics you have never read are pretty amazing all in all. Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice are some of my favorites. I also learned the value of the written word in these books. I loved the conflict and the settings. I am a bit of an Anglophile so I loved them all the more for taking place in English society with all of its rules of decorum and propriety. They may seem dusty and bland on the cover but when you realize they are full of love stories and conflict, deception, redemption, and intrigue, then they become worth the perusal. I hope I have swayed you a little to read at least one. I would go with Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights first if I was going to pick.

  3. I have 3,500 books archived on my kindle. Most free, some I will never read. I have 350 more active on my Kindle that I am plowing through and savoring every word. I am comforted by my collection of books both electronic, and actuall paper print because I know that even if I am alone, I have many friends in those stories. I have two sons in college and a daughter 15, they all are serious readers. My daughter's english class was going to have a contest to see who could read the most books in Feb. , but the other kids just said to give the award to Katie because she reads
    more than most kids in the class combined. One of the greatest legacies I will pass on to my children is the love of books and reading.

  4. You are gifted in writing as well. I can hear your personality and humor very easily.
    From the perspective of a homeschooling Mom, I LOVE your perspective!
    Keep it up.
    The How to Guru