My daughter is nesting.
She spends every spare moment surfing Bed, Bath and Beyond for new bed linens. She scours paint colour wheels for a new shade to compliment her walls. She’s chosen new light fixtures. I am finding scraps of paper doodled with lists of baby names.
I’m terrified. You’re twelve, I tell her. Go play outside.
Of course, attempts to intervene are rebuffed, and only intensify her longings for domesticity.
We discuss career paths, but she is only dreaming of motherhood. Inwardly, I’m aghast. Outwardly, I gently encourage her that motherhood will be there for her, but she should first go to university, explore the world, have some fun. What could be more fun than being a mother, she asks.
I bite my tongue.
There was a time in my life that I could have related with this maternal instinct of hers, but it was twelve years ago, when she was in utero. It lasted about a week. I’ve moved on. Her instinct, though, is more stubbornly rooted, despite the absence (thank God) of potential suitors.
When I was her age, I vividly remember doodling career options, not baby names. Dreaming of travel, not diaper bags. A pied-a-terre in New York, not a house in suburbia. Notwithstanding I ended up with the diaper bag and house in suburbia, but let it be known I never intended for this to happen. I certainly never dreamed about it.
It’s just a phase, my friends tell me. But I detect a look of horror in their eyes.
Every ounce of me wants to stage an intervention, but instead I keep my mouth shut, knowing when she picks up my disapproval she will run with it. It would be easier to deal with pink hair. Pierced eyebrows. Friendship drama. Boy trouble. I hadn’t counted on dreams of domesticity.
Not for me! I said of the e-reader revolution that was rolling through towns and cities, polarizing readers and providing a hot topic for book clubs. No way, no how, a digital tablet will never replace my relationship with the pure-driven paper variety that I caress each night by the light of my bedside table. As Amazon is my witness.
I love books. I love their weight perched against my bent legs and love their smell, whether hot-off -the-press fresh or mouldy with age. I love the act of turning a page and the feeling of accomplishment it provides (I aim low). I love gazing at my book shelf, where I group my favorites together, and how the briefest glimpse of certain titles can make me feel happy. Books have a visceral impact on me; when the going gets tough, I head to the library or nearest book store.
What I don’t like about books is moving them. I discovered this the year we changed addresses three times. This set me off on a tumultuous relationship with my local library – it’s all friendly and lovey dovey when my books are returned on time, not so much when a hardcover goes missing.
After one such recent episode, I turned my house upside down looking for my latest library book, and then headed to the Emergency Room of our hospital, where I’d last seen my copy, and turned that upside down. Twice. As luck would have it, my book was entitled When God Was a Rabbit, so the nurses in their scrubs looked at me quizzically when I described what I was looking for, wondering if I was a quack or simply a Buddhist.
At some point during this drama, I started to consider the purchase of an e-reader. Then the world began to conspire: I read an article trumpeting how easy the e-ink is on your eyes (way better than the iPad, btw), and on the same day, my friend visiting from Atlanta whipped out her e-reader before I could even pour her glass of wine. She sang its praises, saying it was the best thing since, well, books.
After five minutes of extensive research, I ordered a Kindle. At best, I was mildly curious. At worst, it would gather dust alongside the ab-cruncher I thought I couldn’t live without.
The slim box was delivered a few days later. It was as streamlined as any Apple product I have had the pleasure of opening – no confusing manual to master and no assembly required. I plugged it in and an hour later was off to the virtual Kindle store. I was digging it so far.
I quickly realized there were a couple of clever advantages my gadget had that my native books lacked: an online dictionary, the ability to highlight passages, and of course the ability to have any book I would ever want delivered to my device in about one minute. Inexplicably, I never turned my mind to that last little detail, which is enormously impressive but also potentially as dangerous as crack cocaine to my bank account. Hopefully I can read responsibly.
Here is a familiar scene: I fall into my bed, lights turned low, excited to escape into a fictional world, and I quickly come across a word that I don’t know, and can only guess at its meaning from the context. Or worse, it’s a word that I’m familiar with but unsure of its essence. I would like to know what it means, and suspect if I was the owner of a British accent I would indeed know what it means. But my dictionary resides a couple of staircases below where I am lying, as is my computer, and I am too lazy and forgetful to do anything about it. Two things you can never find in my house are matching socks and working pens, so writing the word down for future reference is also a challenge. Ergo the word remains masked in uncertainty.
E-reader to my rescue: I simply move a cursor anywhere on my page, and the dictionary meaning is automatically displayed in the bottom. The clouds just parted and the sun is shining a light on my swelling vocabulary.
When a passage or a line particularly catches my fancy, I like to make note of it. However, I have an odd phobia about writing in my books – I can’t bring myself to do it, I feel like I’m defacing property. Instead, I write the passage down in a journal, which can take a long time, assuming of course I find a working pen. And if the author happens to be David Mitchell, this can bring on writer’s cramp. With my new gadget, I can easily highlight passages with a press of a button and it will be saved under my notes for that book. Narly stuff.
I find it as easy to hold as a book, and in fact easier than some weighty hardcovers, and I can’t remember the last time I charged it – the battery kicks my laptop’s butt. To be clear, it’s no tablet, but that’s okay with me, since I don’t want to be tempted by the internet during my sacred reading time.
Still, there are drawbacks: puddles and baths pose problems. So many books at my fingertips might be hard on my wallet. The gadget itself isn’t as attractive as the beautiful kaleidoscope of spines on my bookshelf. And what could be more alluring than scouring second-hand book stores for gems? I don’t expect my e-reader to replace physical books altogether, but it only took five minutes to decide it is a brilliant addition to my library.
- Howard Jacobson: We’ll miss the sensuous pleasure of a real book (independent.co.uk)
- Kindle DX (emediatips.wordpress.com)
If I’ve learned one thing as a parent, it is how to nonchalantly cajole my children into situations that – if I were in their shoes – would cause me to quiver more than the cellulite on my thighs.
Whether it concerns skiing down an icy pitch or eating lima beans, I begin by reassuring them they will live to tell the tale, and that it will be good for them in the end. In the middle I may regale them with stories (completely fabricated) to send my point home. And although I try to avoid it, it usually ends with a bribe. The turnaround time from patiently explaining attributes to desperately tempting them with candy is about one minute.
I have this act down-pat: “Be brave! You can do it! I watched a two-year old do this last week! Seriously, we will celebrate with Skittles when this is all said and done.” Change a few nouns, adjectives and bribes, and this accounts for most of my conversational life.
Yet, when I find myself in their shoes and on equal footing, I crumble faster than my shortbread recipe. Since the show must go on, meaning they must be tricked into various scenarios, I have resolved to never let them witness my cowardice. You know that old adage, “Never let them see you sweat?” After my recent trip to the dentist, I have adapted this to “Never let them see me with a dental dam.” If they saw how their tough-talking mother behaved, I would never be able to drag them to the dentist again.
My dentist has been wanting to replace one of my fillings for five years. I have put it off for excellent reasons: I’m too busy, I tell him. There are groceries to be bought, children to be chauffeured, nails to be filed. He usually rolls his eyes, but this time he wouldn’t waiver, and booked me for the following day. Something about a crack and an emergency – he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Before I could vigorously floss my teeth to remove a week’s worth of sesame seeds, I was back at the dentist, waiting for the major procedure. Replacing a filling is not as easy as it sounds. It involves needles. And pain.
They called my name and the funniest thing happened: I found I was rooted to my seat, and rendered immobile. I did, however, manage to overcome my sudden nausea and held on to my digesting oatmeal. The dental hygienist was smiling and gesturing, and all I could do was shake my head and babble. The receptionist got involved, and then my children’s hygienist, Molly, walked by. For ten years she has witnessed me encouraging/bribing my children, and she got a kick out of seeing me on the receiving end of the drill. Pun intended.
Sometimes it takes a village, but that day it took an office to get me to walk down the hall to my very own torture chair. I asked William, my dentist, to explain the procedure, and once he finished his detailed answer I asked him to explain it again, slowly this time, at which point they bound and gagged me with the dental dam. Before they snapped the plastic in place, I begged him to be liberal with the happy gas, and encouraged him to be all he could be, professionally, on this day.
I attempted to lose myself in an old episode of ‘Friends’ that was playing on the ceiling as they pricked and prodded and drilled and suctioned. The happy gas made me a little loopy, but it’s no champagne. I tried my best to breathe through the plastic and keep my drool in check, and when things got dicey I quelled my screams by digging my fingernails into the arms of the torture chair they thoughtfully provided. I vaguely recall Molly and the receptionist peeking in to see how I was faring. Finally – sooner than I expected – they were done, and although my mouth was frozen into a sideways elliptical shape, I was free to go.
As I sprinted down the hall, I thought what doesn’t beat you makes you stronger, and congratulated myself on my valiant effort. Then William called after my retreating backside, “The temporary tooth is beautiful – just avoid solids on that side until we do the other half of the procedure.”
The receptionist handed me a tissue for the saliva that was dribbling down my chin. Seeing the sorrow in my eyes, she fed me the same annoying line I feed my children, “Don’t worry, it will be over before you know it!”