Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ideals, Literature, & A Solitary Nature

We all have ideals. Ideal places, ideal situations, ideal people, etcetera. 

My ideal anything typically involves books. It always has. I truly believe I came out of my mother's womb with a book in hand and I'm seldom anywhere without books. If you don't believe me, go look in my car and you'll discover at least two in my dashboard. (Here's proof):

Two collections of short stories (Eudora Welty and Katherine Mansfield) because short stories are easy to get into and, if pressed for time, don't take as long as a novel. And Pride & Prejudice because I can pick that novel up at anytime and get into the narrative immediately! The books in my dashboard rotates according to my reading habits at the time.

My ideal vacation spots tend to be literary places. I long to go to England where soooo much of my favorite literature was written. To visit the houses of Dickens, the Bronte Sisters, Wordsworth's Dove Cottage, or the home where Jane Austen wrote (the table she wrote her magnificent novels on is in the picture below). I want to visit the homes of Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, and Emily Dickinson. 

Or to go to specific bookstores: Powell's in Portland, The Strand in New York, and Shakespeare & Company in Paris (I've been to two out of three. Still working on Paris). 

I dragged my family all over Kiev until we found the Bulgakov museum and I could take a photo of me with his statue:

When Danelle went to Odessa to apply for Cava's visa, she made sure to take a photo of the statue of the poet Pushkin for me. If I'd been there, I would've dragged everyone to the home of the poet Anna Akhmatova, too.

When we were in Kiev, I stopped at any bookstall or went into bookstores to look, even though I couldn't read any of the books in them.

Whenever I used to imagine what my child would look like, this is what I imagined:

Yes, that's right, Rory Gilmore from the TV show "Gilmore Girls." She was smart, sweet, and absolutely loved to read. In one episode, her patient boyfriend waits for her while she scours a local book sale - for 3 hours! Like me, she carried a book or books with her everywhere. So I used to imagine that, one day, I would have just such a daughter to go with me to book sales or bookshops where we could spend time together finding that perfect book(s) and we could talk about the books we loved or read together. 

And I love books, not downloadable ones, but real, physical books that I can hold and flip through and enjoy the smell of. There is nothing like the smell of a new book! For those bibliophiles out there, you know exactly what I mean. I love the experience of browsing a bookstore or library in the hopes of coming across that book which will become one of my favorites. And I can spend hours in one, which drove away many a girlfriend. I think that's one of the reasons why Danelle and I got married: she allowed me to browse to my heart's content.

Throughout my life, the characters in books or the worlds they inhabit have been more real to me than the people and places around me. Books have led me down the rabbit hole with Alice, through the wardrobe into Narnia, past the first star on the right to Neverland, down the Mississippi with Huck Finn, hunting the elusive white whale with Ahab, and a host of other marvelous experiences and adventures that have enriched my life enormously. Among my closest friends have been Meg Murray to Holden Caufield to Prince Myshkin. And all of these books have made me realize that I'm not alone.

As I've written about before, reading was partially responsible for my having a longing to adopt. (How Literature Helped Lead To Adoption).

Once again, in my mind I had ideals for a girl who read avidly, like Anne of Green Gables:

I've also wanted to visit Prince Edward Island specifically because of that book.

To say I'm an "avid" reader is an understatement. I tend to have 2 to 3 different books going at a time, depending on which one I'm in the mood to read. People would rather help move my furniture than my books. And my idea of decorating is purchasing another bookshelf to accommodate my ever-growing library. I like being surrounded by books. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "I cannot live without books." It was the books he donated that became the Library of Congress. After he'd done this, he immediately set to rebuilding his own library again (and was one of the reasons he died in debt). 

Reading is a solitary habit. I have always been a very shy and introverted person and it shouldn't come as a surprise that I turned to books because I could be safe behind the covers of a book. I could go to a social gathering, take a book along, find an empty room, open my book and escape. Socially, I'm awkward and have always tried to fade into the walls at any gathering. I've never been the life of the party and, the few times I tried, it always appeared that the person I was attempting to converse with, clearly wanted to get away and talk to someone else. I never had this problem with characters from novels. They took me into their confidence and their lives. So I went to parties with Anna Karenina or the characters that inhabited society as captured by Edith Wharton. 

Before we adopted, we prayed that God would give us the right child for our family. At times, I've wondered about what God was thinking when He chose Cava for us. But there are other times that it is blatantly obvious. This inward, solitary child who loves to go off to his room to do puzzles, word searches, or to read is, in many ways, very much like myself. I didn't come from the same background as Cava, but my childhood was often a lonely one where I didn't fit in and retreated to books and the imaginary worlds I created. So, is it any wonder that God would have me be a Papa to this boy? 

Even when we were at Hands On, Cava went to the pretend nursery and found some books. He read all them from Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to one of beginner's words. 

And I've been reading to him from E.B. White's beloved classic Charlotte's Web so that we can share in this experience together and bond over something we both love to do: read. 


  1. I love this post! As a fellow bibliophile and literature major I 100% relate! I love that you and Cava share a passion for books and reading :) I would absolutely love it if one of my children shares that passion with me.

  2. This is like my favorite post! Love my books and reading...and I'm so glad you can share that passion with Cava.