Sometimes you meet people in the online world that make you wonder how they gained access to your brain, nearly mimicking your own thoughts and words. And I say this in the best of ways, because Lily is a kindred spirit of sorts, even though I’ve never actually met her. So, see if you find yourself in her tale today, then fall in love with her storytelling ways. Enjoy!
I learned to read by listening to my mother’s voice.
When I was very small and my mother was still working, she made tapes of herself reading my favorite books and gave me the cassettes and the tape player so that I could read with her anytime I wanted to.
She modeled her recordings on the books on tape we’d check out from the public library. “You’ll know it’s time to turn the page when you hear the chimes ring like this, ‘Ding!’” My mother’s voice poured out of the speakers like magic. I followed along in my Berenstein Bears books so many times that eventually my brain started to connect the words she spoke with the words on the page. Soon I was reading on my own, picture books, and then chapter books. I entered Kindergarten at a 5th grade reading level, but I never outgrew listening to my mother read.
Books were always a part of my life, but especially at bedtime. Before a nap or at nighttime my sisters and I would all climb into my mother’s bed and she would read to us – picture books and chapter books about worlds we only dreamed of exploring. She would read even as her own eyelids grew heavy with sleep. Unable to resist the lull of the words, she would close her eyes mid-sentence and her semi-conscious brain would fill in words to finish the phrase she was only halfway through reading.
“The very hungry caterpillar ate through four pears. But he was still…tired.”
“No, Mom! No, it doesn’t say tired! It says hungry. He was still hungry!” we would squeal.
And Mom would blink awake and laugh with us at her mistake and let us finish reading it to each other instead while she closed her eyes, “just for a minute.”
And so I grew to love the way it felt to fall asleep to the rhythm of words, whether the cadence of my mother’s voice or my own internal voice as I read to myself. Reading before bed became as natural as brushing my teeth and putting on my pajamas.
Now I am a woman with a home of my own. It’s been ten years since I lived in my mother’s house and many years more since she read me to sleep, but every night, no matter where I am, no matter how tired I am, I lie in bed and read. Some days I only have the energy to read two pages before my eyes start to close, but still, I read.
I read out of habit, but also because reading books before bed settles me. It’s a way to turn my brain away from the worries of the day that threaten to keep me awake. Reading calms my mind from the constant stimulus of my computer screen or television and helps me slow down. Reading helps me escape the realities of my life, the errands that need to be run and the chores that need to be done.
For the past two years I have been living as an expat in Asia, far from home and far from everything familiar. When everything around you is strange and difficult, you cling to the things that make sense. When I lie in bed and read, I forget that I am in a foreign country, 6,000 miles from home. I forget that I am frustrated from another day spent navigating a language and a culture I don’t understand. Instead I feel a deep sense of connection – to the people in my book, to other readers, and even to my own past and all of the years I’ve spent reading in my bed.
The older I get the more like my mother I become, and while I don’t have children to read to, I often find myself dozing off mid-sentence, my book or kindle falling onto my chest (or occasionally my face) before I’ve realized I’m falling asleep.
My husband will come into the bedroom and find me “reading” with my eyes closed. “Are you awake?” he’ll whisper, and I will struggle to open my eyes and insist that I am. And he will ignore my feeble protests, close my book and take off my glasses, and set them gently on the end table while I roll onto my side and fall asleep.
Lily Dunn is a teacher by day, a writer by night and an ice cream connoiseur all the time. She lives with her husband in Daegu, South Korea and works out her faith on her blog, http://lilyellyn.com You can also find her on Twitter @lilyellyn. Hey, it’s Cara again – so, what’d you think? Where did you find yourself in Lily’s story today?