This would not my first choice location-wise, if I were to choose. The grass is mowed to perfection, the playground equipment is too complicated for its own good and there is an army of picnic tables looking like square monochromatic grazing cows minus the horns. Truth is, I find man-made open spaces like this intimidating and that’s a sin in itself as it limits my enjoyment. But I have at least half an hour to kill with the boys so there. I have a good book with me, so I eagerly drop myself in it and start walking down rows of words like they are trees in a forest I get to see for the first time. In the meantime the boys decide to visit the playground but it doesn’t spark their interest much so they move on to greener pasture, no pun intended but it fits. “We’ll walk over that way,” Tony says pointing to a hill far away, but by now we’ve done this so often, the two of them exploring far and wide, that I don’t flinch.
I read and knowing there is nowhere I have to be right now but right here on this sea of grass with a book in my hand, well, that’s soul-swelling. I check on the boys in the distance and after a short slightly panicked moment of wondering whether we’re still sharing the same gross geographical coordinates, I see them. They are so far they look like round and fast-moving tiny bugs pitter-pattering on a giant leaf. The smooth green hill, that is, covered in velvety grass. I follow them with my eyes and can’t help but wonder what would it be like if I could pick them up right now like I do with ladybugs and they’d still be tiny and they’d roll down into my palm.
I squirrel my way back into the book and let the sun rub some cloudy sunshine in my hair. You see, now that the boys are old enough and the sling is no longer draped around my shoulder with a baby or a toddler in it, the pleasure of reading has returned fully like a traveler who spent the last few years in some far away continent but now the time has come to return. There is always, of course, that bittersweet farewell to my boys’ baby years, but having been there every step of the way, there is also good closure over it and that peace of mind and heart that comes from understanding and savouring life and all that comes with it. But that’s another story on its own.
Reading by the river with the boys jumping around and playing and their voices ricocheting off the trees, reading half buried in my sofa at home on afternoons when chores have to be done but my mind carefully sails away from that, reading at the end of a long day and falling asleep while reading just to wake up half an hour later and realize that my mind is still waiting for the hand to turn the page, patient and wide-eyed like a dog left behind at a train stop knowing that someone will return soon to claim him. I can only hope my boys will acquire and honor the pleasure of grabbing a book and reading not because it’s reading time but because. Simply because.
It’s the simplest of things, you know. Picking up a good book and getting lost in there, hearing your brain talk with its mouth full of good words and not thinking for one second that it is poor manners to do so.