Thursday, May 5, 2016

About Books

The other night, Luca opened the basket where we keep the blankets—it’s a multi-blue wickered thing we got on clearance at Target—and pulled out a beige blanket. He balled it up as best as his 18-month old arms could and, faltering a couple times, made his way with it to the couch where I was sitting.

When we read books, I wrap both of us up in this blanket. Before bed, when he’s winding down. I tell him to “get cozy” as we go through Digger Dog and Paddington Bear and Chica Chica Boom Boom and The Little Engine that Could. It’s our little ritual, the one we’ve perfected over this long winter. 

Now, at the start of this night’s bedtime routine, he goes over to his books in the living room, which take up the bottom row of our handmade bookshelf. This built-in bookshelf, that John made me when I moved into his apartment, and then re-made when we moved into this house, together.

The top shelves are styled, books placed with framed photos, placed with candles, placed with oddly shaped Home Goods vases. The colors go with the walls, go with the rug, go with the curtains, go with each other.

The most important books are there, I made sure of it. The ones that mean something to me, the ones that mean the most. The colors and the titles fitting in the right way, even if that right way doesn’t look right to anyone else.

Luca’s looking at the books now, pulling them out until they’ve all fallen around him, as he stands in this play area that also houses blocks and baby-sized hammers, where puzzle pieces are always missing and the collection of stuffed animals grows by the holiday.  

I think about the books I’m reading. A book about being a parent that makes me feel more normal, more connected to this old-but-always-new concept of having a kid. Another about a woman hoping to help a man see the best things in life, the book that my two close friends and I have declared the second pick for our “bi-monthly book club,”—named appropriately because we are in a season where it might take more than a month to get through a book, and maybe just as long to schedule a time to meet, but where it’s important to make sure we are drinking wine and eating in a dimly lit restaurant that doesn’t have high chairs.

I see a photo of my sister-in-law on the train, reading a borrowed book. I start another, that Kelly gave me, excitedly telling me she read it in a day. I know the author. I know what it feels like to get so excited about a book, to tuck it into your bag, or toss it on the passenger side seat of your car, ready to give it to someone that you know will appreciate it just as much as you do.

In our group chat, we ask for new kids’ books recommendations. I toss out Strega Nona, a book from my own childhood that I’m re-discovering now. The one that reminds me of that library in the basement of my Catholic elementary school, where most people called their grandmothers Nonna and no one really questioned it.

I walk over to Luca, crouch down and pick out a few books for us to read. I’ll clean up the mess later. We get under the blanket and read Chica Chica Boom Boom, Paddington Bear, Strega Nona.

He falls asleep somewhere in the middle of Strega Nona, when she’s calling to Big Anthony and he’s complaining about her not using her magic. I finish the rest anyway. All these years later, there’s still a connection.

And I know that it’s not just to this book, to this ritual, to this season. It’s a constant, re-defined and re-imagined over the years, a way to feel less alone, a way to tell others what you’re feeling, what’s important to you. How you identify yourself, cozied up under a blanket, reading someone else’s story.

[photo via unsplash


  1. Love this!

    Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: "You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who have ever been alive." - James Baldwin

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  3. One of best advice my dad ever gave me is to read anything and everything. I relate to this entry in many ways. Books have defined me in ways relationships can for others. I hope and pray my love for books will find it is way to my son. So glad to hear there is another mother who is on same journey as me!