I packed four books for my trip to Texas this weekend. Three novels and one non-fiction. One of the novels I’ve read before: Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood. I picked it up in Rome and I read the whole thing on the bus ride from Rome to the airport outside the city where all of the discount airlines fly to, then misplaced or lost or forgot about it and wondered if maybe I’d dreamed ever reading it until I found it again once I was back in the States. One of the other novels, The Wangs vs. the World, I got sometime in the spring in my Book of the Month box. Its fairly beat up, not because I’ve read it, but because I’ve brought it on my last four flights, expecting to finally have the time to get into the story.
I won’t actually read all four of the books; we’ve got a wedding on Saturday and Mom wants to do Thanksgiving on Sunday. I’d do the same on school field trips in elementary school, loading up a tote with a dictionary-sized CD case (even though I’d probably only listen to Shania Twain’s Up) and at least four or five paperback novels for the two hour bus trip to Houston. I’m an adult now so I should be able to reason with myself and talk myself down to two, maybe three–though, if you think about it, four isn’t really all that different from three–but I’m stubborn and like to have options.
When I last came to Texas, I packed six books. In my defense, my trip in June was one day longer than my stay this weekend. I read all of them, too, except for the non-fiction book I brought. I never read the non-fiction books I bring. The night before I left, I was supposed to go to a party at the Newseum and, despite the fact that I love the Newseum and getting to be places after hours and also free food and live music, I skipped it because I realized I didn’t have enough books for the trip home. That’s actually a lie, I have whole stacks of unread books cluttering the corners of my room, but I wanted options. Anyways, I skipped the party which should come as no surprise because, as we all know, I’ll always choose a new book over a party.
By my flight home on Sunday, I had a book hangover. I used to get them as a kid all the time, when you lose yourself so completely in a story that coming back to the real world just feels even more disappointing than usual.
One of the books I picked up, Uprooted, I think you’d love. The whole thing moves beautifully. I’d read quickly, then force myself to slow down to really savor the story and not rush the ending, then I’d forget and start reading quickly again before I realized what I was doing and have to slow down again.
A quarter of the way in I purchased wifi on my flight just to check and see if there was a sequel that I could download as soon as I landed in Dallas. I was equal parts relieved and disappointed to find out there wasn’t: disappointed because I hadn’t even finished and I already wanted more, relieved because I knew this book already had its hooks in me and I didn’t want to be stuck in another George R.R. Martin situation of unfinished book series.
I got it from the library but I ordered it on Amazon because it’s one of those books I want to own so I can read it whenever I want. It reminds me of the books we used to act out as kids. Have you read a book like that lately? One you wish you could disappear into so completely that bikes become horses and sticks become swords and you start reading fanfiction again?
When I went to the library in Georgetown before my trip home in June, there were two kids sitting outside, waiting for a ride. Do you remember those days when we would’ve lived at the library if our parents would’ve let us? I remember visiting you in Frisco once and you took me to the library on Main and showed me around like you were introducing me to your future husband.
As a kid, I’d concoct actual schemes to catch a ride downtown, spending hours hanging out in a chair in the corner while I waited for Mom to finish running her errands or Dad to get off work. I had the hours of operation memorized. Each trip, I’d load up on as many books as I could, enough to last me the six weeks until they were due and I had an excuse to come back. I’m no good at pool so my hustle was always those summer reading programs where you’d get a sticker for every book you read and a free lunch if you read fifty.
I had a system. I’d cruise the New Releases and pick up two or three titles. Then I’d peruse the teen section, looking for whatever caught my eye. Then I’d skim Nonfiction, picking out books on horses and sea creatures and electromagnetism and anything that looked remotely interesting to fill in the gaps of my curriculum. I’d never read the non-fiction books unless they had diagrams, breaking down the way things worked, like the lymphatic system or a car engine.
Every week, I think this will be the week that I’m stumped for a letter. I wrote this entire thing in twenty minutes flying somewhere over the Bible belt. Traveling always makes writing easier but this letter was the longest and easiest yet. I hope this makes up for all those phone calls I forget to return.