I Think, Therefore I Read. I Read, Therefore I Think.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, I read A Visit from Sir Nicholas by Victoria Alexander, a book I didn’t enjoy at all save for the character’s discussions regarding the “new” book by Charles Dickens called A Christmas Carol. The story was set in the same time period in which Mr. Dickens’s lived. I thought the premise of introducing what the past few generations has come to know as a “classic tale” was a stroke of pure genius. What disappointed me the most the fact that there would be no rousing conversation about the book, with my mother-in-law, Phyllis, as there tends to be when discussing a book we find mutually enjoyable. We did have a conversation, to be sure, but not the same type as there is when an ardent interest is involved. During the course of this discussion, I did say that I thought this book was one that her mother would have dearly enjoyed. Phyllis disagreed. My husband, Steve, was in the room when we had this conversation.
Normally, he stays out of discussions of this sort because they hold little interest for him. At the mention of his grandmother, however, his ears perked up. She and Steve had a special bond. When they would listen to reason from no other human on the planet, they would listen to each other. Because I loved her grandson and she was sure of it, she welcomed me into that inner sanctum with open arms, lots of conversation and advice. Aside from our love for Steve, we shared a passion for tea, good books and garnets, our birthstones.
Lillian Bruce, affectionately known among her friends around town and at her church as “Granny B,” was the family matriarch until ten years ago. She lived to the ripe old age of 101, and up until six months before she passed away and needed the care of a nursing home, she was still actively taking in the social scene of the Senior Center and a vital member of her church.
She stood barely 4'10" with a regal bearing, and possessed a wicked cackle when something struck her funny as well as a charmingly unexpected innocence. She had her hair colored a lovely champagne color on a monthly basis and wore make-up daily. She even wore pumps, the more glamorous and beaded the better, and gleefully danced the feet off the men in her circle, many of them much younger than herself. Save for the bleach-splattered sweat suits she wore on weekends to do her cleaning, she dressed nicely every day, ready to do anything. She was a marvel with an enthusiastic interest in life, living and the friendships in her life. Her mind was as sharp as a newly stropped razor until the pain of cancer clouded her mind with its intensity several weeks before she died. I felt truly blessed to have had the chance to have another “granny” in my life as both of mine had passed away many years earlier.
I believe the reason for her mental acuity lay in the fact that she was a fervent and voracious reader. She adored Harlequin romances. Steve and I would stop at the used bookstore and buy her a stack whenever we went to visit since she endeavored to read one a day. I asked her once why she liked them so much. They were not the kind of reading she would have done in her younger years (before age 88, she admitted), she said, but she liked them as she got older mainly because they were light and easy to hold. With a mischievous grin, this pillar of her church sheepishly admitted that all the sweating and heaving that went on between the covers of the books made her laugh and gave her a guilty kind of pleasure. (Gawd, I miss that woman. She was a rip!)
Phyllis was surprised when I told her what I knew of her mother’s reading preferences and, with her son’s confirmation of the facts, she hesitantly conceded the point. As is common in most parent/child relationship there were things Phyllis didn’t know about her mother, the woman all of us don’t know about our own mothers. Hopefully, I will have a few surprises for my children someday.
I hope, too, that as I age, I possess the good common sense to be willing to change my reading material if the weight of a book becomes a burden or be willing to turn to audio books if my vision should fail. I am most fortunate to have married into a family whose women are sharp, bright and “with it” mentally because they enjoy(ed) reading. Perhaps with shining examples such as this I can keep my mental machinery in fine fettle till the end of my days, just because I read.
I read, therefore I think, feel, laugh, cry and converse. Reading makes me want more—which is why I will never regret having read a book such as A Visit from Sir Nicholas even if I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped. The pleasure of having read at all is enough sometimes, especially when it brings such lovely things to remember as the laughter and time spent with the special women in my husband’s life, like his mother and grandmother.
At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs, one cat and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She can be reached at