Sitting in the shade, I lift my eyes to glittering water and warm sand, glance back at the page, and I enter a world of beddings and beheadings and shiver the dismally damp days of 16th century England. Reading, hours and hours of it, is a prime paradise pleasure.
The older of our sons was reader child in my mind. The kind of kid who shelters in the doorway at recess, his nose in a book. He grew much more interested in what happened on the playing field, but he is still a reader with a capital R.
On this trip I thought of him when I loved Adam Gopnik’s book “Angels and Ages” about Darwin and Lincoln. Gopnik describes a reader child: “…those for whom the experiences of reading and writing are addictive, entrancing, overwhelming, and so intense as to offer a new life of their own – those for whom the moment of learning to read begins a second life of letters as rich as the primary life of experience.”
For years of sandy vacations, we read aloud and shared that second life: wandering to Oz, adventuring with Tin Tin, striding through the future with those tripod creatures of John Christopher, enduring the Long Winter.
I’m grateful for the reader child’s willingness to listen a second time around (to stories he could read himself), while we read the same books to his brother. Shared pleasures then, I cherish that they became reference points – a common imaginative landscape.
We’re no longer much part of grown children’s primary lives, relishing their independence and being saddened by it at the same time. When the reader child and I exchanged the same book as Christmas gifts, it was a welcome recognition of a still sometimes shared second life.
We each gave the other Hilary Mantel’s delicious “Wolf Hall.” Always happy for commonalities with grown children – Thomas Cromwell, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, and all that English weather as backdrop to political and romantic intrigue works just fine.