Vacation Reading

Today is the first day of Christmas vacation—the first real vacation I recall being on in years and years—since Max and Alexis were in diapers. I began it the way I spent so many hours of holidays past, before I had so many responsibilities. Back when I didn’t carry a daily calendar. When every hour wasn’t divided into time slots. When vacation truly began as soon as the last school bell rang. I woke early, before the sun but fully rested after a more-than full night’s sleep following more than a full day spent napping and resting and sitting on flights from Jakarta to Houston. I woke as I usually do with a sense of urgency accompanied by reluctance to stir from my cozy cocoon.

Most mornings I compromise. I stall for a few more minutes in my nest by mentally reviewing my day’s calendar. I note my list of to-dos for the day and the time needed for each task, then line them up against the ticking clock and my regular daily requirements: wash, dress, breakfast, morning calls back to family: Lexi, Mom, Max, any business calls (these jerk me right out of bed as they must be made early—often before 6). With each item my internal engine revs louder and faster until the buzzing propels me from the bed and on with the day.

While vacations may be holidays from regular routine, ours are usually scheduled: so much to see and do, so little time. Certainly the daily task list differs from the norm and might read something like: 8:30 scrumptious breakfast; 9:30 tour of some place spectacular; 12 lunch in a palace; swim on the beach; sunset cocktails…. It is still a chock-full calendar.

So, I woke this morning and as I do, stretched, enjoyed the warm coziness of the bed, sought a cool corner for my toes, and opened my mental calendar. The page turned but nothing popped up. My calendar page was blank—empty—bright white and waiting. Not  one appointment. Not one must do. And, because I was on the same side of the world as everyone on my usual morning call list, even it was blank (no one, no matter how much they loved me, would appreciate a call this early in the morning.) That’s when I realized I was truly, for the first time in adult history, on vacation-there were no great expectations. I turned on the light, picked up my book, Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones, found my place and snuggled down for a cozy read.

I read all the time. Read for information. Read to see how other writers write. Read to discover what other writers are writing. And each night I climb into bed to read strictly for pleasure. However because I try to pack as much into each day as possible, this pleasure reading rarely lasts beyond a page.Today, in the wee small hours of the morning, I found myself reading and reading and reading on the way I used to when I was young. Back in middle school, my friend Theresa and I would spend our vacation afternoons holed up in her bedroom with records and Harlequin Romances. We’d play the same albums over and over while we read—timing our chapter turns so we finished at the same time. During vacations spent at my grandparents, I worked my way through their shelves of fiction, especially Reader’s Digest Condensed Readers—the places those stories took me.

Mr. Pip is set in Bougainville, a tropical island where, in the 60s, as a result of civil war brought about by unfair practices in the mining industry, results in all in a blockade of the island. Every non native evacuates—including medical personnel, teachers and clergy. The only white man left of the island, Mr. Watts (married to a local) takes it on himself to teach the children and each day reads a chapter from Great Expectations.

I must admit, today’s vacation reading wasn’t exactly like it used to be. I couldn’t entirely shake the feeling of having somewhere else to go, or something to do—but that may only have increased my enjoyment. At every chapter end—actually, at a spot right before the chapter end, where I could see an end coming and had to decide whether to put the book down at the chapter break or read on past it—I’d stop to consider if I was actually at leisure, with an empty calendar before me, or whether I’d forgotten some commitment. Then I smiled, rearranged the pillows and went back to my book.

I am loving vacation!