Two of my sons hate when someone says, “I love to curl up with a good book.” They think its corny, but not being readers, they don’t understand the pure joy that comes with indulging both your physical and intellectual needs at the same time.
That said, I haven’t curled up with a good book in a long time. My house, while comfortable, doesn’t have a spot that meets all the criteria I have for the ultimate reading experience.
I need a high-backed chair that holds all of me, preferably one with an ottoman so I can put my feet up. I need a knit blanket and a light just to one side so I can carve out an intimate spot in an otherwise darkened room. I need a table just to the right of the chair to hold my tea or whiskey or wine. And I need silence. That doesn’t happen in a small house with a wife and four kids.
There are nice places in my house. I like to read in the living room, though in the winter the leather couch takes some warming up. Plus it’s right in the path of anyone who needs to go upstairs or down and I can hear what’s going on in the kitchen so my mind tends to wander.
I like the back room, where there is a soft, warm microfiber sofa, but the pillows have seen better days and there’s no place for my feet, so I end up lying down, to read. That means I can’t comfortably drink and if someone wants to watch the television, I have to give it up or try to read through some horrible Disney Channel show. Plus, anytime I lay down anymore, I’m out like a light.
Even my bed isn’t ideal because there’s no place for me to put my drink and the headboard isn’t an ideal support for my back.
For all those reasons, one of my favorite spots to read has become, I’ll just say it, the bathroom. (Talk about meeting your physical and intellectual needs at once, it doesn’t get any more basic than this.) It’s quiet, people don’t tend to come in and out, for several reasons, and I can do two things at once. True, it’s not ideal for, say, a lengthy novel, but there are days when even reading two paragraphs uninterrupted is nirvana. When I’m lucky, and no one knows where I am, I have been known to read until my legs went numb.
In my go-to bathroom, we keep “as decoration” a few small, old books of poetry and one of works by Norman Rockwell, useful when you can’t find the book you’re reading and time is of the essence. I appreciate others who stock their crapper with magazines and books, too, though I’m always conscious of the time, as they might wonder what happened to me if I get absorbed in something I’m reading. I often wonder whether they would be horrified that I used their decorations to pass the time.
When the kids were real young and we would travel with them, we often broke up long trips with a stay in a motel. These were not fancy places, usually consisting of one room and a bathroom, which made bedtime a hassle. We’d put the kids in the beds, then hide in the bathroom, reading, until they were asleep and we could turn on the television for some mindless entertainment. One of us would sit, fully clothed, in the tub, the other on the toilet, drinking wine from the plastic glasses provided by the motel. Of course, because neither of us was, well, multitasking, it was not quite the same as what I’m writing about here. Still, it’s a cherished memory.
I don’t know whether I should be ashamed to admit it or not, but I’ve been known to read cookbooks on the can. A recipe is usually the perfect length, plus there’s an Alpha and Omega symmetry I can appreciate intellectually. And just to clear up any confusion, no, I don’t eat or drink whilst reading and releasing.
I know I’m not alone: The men’s room at the last newspaper I worked at was littered with newspapers. There was always something to read, though it meant picking up something off the filthy floor. I lobbied a manager to get a rack in each stall for people to put their newspapers in when they were done, but the manager I proposed that to just said, “People are here to work, not read in the can.” That always seemed to me a head-in-the-sand response, but gave up my campaign because he was right.
Someday, the kids will be gone and I can take over a bedroom and turn it into my perfect reading spot. Or maybe the turtles will die (please, dear God, please!) and the space devoted to their tank could become my special reading area. I look forward to those days, but until then, you know where to find me. Just, please, for everyone’s sake, don’t.