dancing and surfing through the stacks

Just a few days/nights to go with visitor #1 and I am feeling a bit wistful. I will miss her.

Tonight I sat in a room with four young women, two mine and two from two other countries, and we all laughed until our bellies ached and tears flowed from our eyes.

We were talking about dancing and they were teasing me about my 70’s white-girl movements, the way girls my age try to look soulful and skrinch up our noses and purse our lips to plump them just so as we pump our arms in a heartfelt attempt to follow the beat. How we try to look so very baaaad yet can’t quite pull it off so just look a bit, well, awk-ward.

There is a certain type of music that renders my sweet visitor—like all other women in her culture—incapable of staving the urge, no, not the urge, the visceral need, to dance. In order to charge up the hips (which wriggle in ways that most of us can barely even imagine let alone duplicate) and belly (which undulates with the speed of a hummingbird wing), she needs to tie something, anything, around her hips, sort of like in the image above, but flip the traditional garb for a pair of skinny jeans and a One Direction t-shirt.

I was at a wedding once and the women scared me when they abruptly screeched and stood, frantically grabbing napkins off the tables to tie them around their hips. The first notes of a favorite song hung in the air, and without something tied around their hips, just above their thighs, they simply could not move.

Anyway, tonight she danced. She laughed and danced, full of life.

image by kharied via flickr

Earlier we went to the library, something I’ve done thousands and thousands of times. Each one found our way to our favorite stacks and returned with a book, or two, nonchalantly waiting in line to check them out (ahem… after paying a whopping 15-cent overdue fine). The most difficult thing was deciding which books to take, so many calling out our names, yet we knew we could return next week, or the next, and get the ones we’d missed.

Last week I took them to the bookstore and each bought a book. We give away books at an even faster rate than we give away clothes, yet still we accumulate more. I may deny my children many things, but I would eat beans every night for a month in order to give them the pleasure of a new book every now and then.

When, last night, I updated the list of books on my “to-read” shelf, it reached a daunting one-hundred-fifty-some-odd titles. And those are the ones that actually made it to the list. The only thing keeping me from reading them is time or my own will to either order them from the library or splurge and buy a few, to sit down and read them. Support your indie bookstore. Support writers and those who love them. I’m doing my part.

She, my young dancer, thought it was a bookstore, which she doesn’t frequent, for there are precious few in the city where she lives, or a CD store (she went straight there, eschewing the books). She doesn’t really know libraries, either. Oh, she’s been in one, once or twice. She said there’s one in her school, but certainly it’s not like the ones we know, and without a doubt the weekly or bi-weekly jaunt to get the next read is not part of her life, possibly never will be. Do you like to read? I asked, and she looked at me a bit baffled. You must read, I said over and over to her during these weeks in which she’s been here, as though it were my mission to save her from a life without fiction, or non. She doesn’t share my urgency. Thinks I’m a bit batty.

Reading—outside of those obligatory texts in school—is not something she does, nor even thinks about. This is not surprising, despite the fact that she is top in her class and brimming with brightness and curiosity, despite the fact that she comes from an educated family, even a privileged one. Books are a luxury, and like all luxuries they remain mostly out of reach. Lending libraries exist mostly within the universities, and books are inordinately expensive, ebooks basically unavailable to download (I checked, neither apple or the others offer access to the their books from her country). You cannot build a country of readers when books are like distant oases, nearly impossible to reach.

So as I watched her dance, my stack of library books before her, I thought of how just yesterday I was a bit annoyed at the length of my reading list. Today I am grateful for each and every title, because I was reminded that to be able to read, to be able to read whatever I want, to be able to provide the same to those I care for, is a luxury beyond compare.

She dances, she smiles, she surfs the net. Imagine if she were able to surf the stacks instead, if she could read a list as long as mine. Image then where her hips might take her, where her laughter might travel.


3 thoughts on “dancing and surfing through the stacks

  1. Most people take reading for granted, but indeed…”To be able to read, to be able to read whatever I want, to be able to provide the same to those I care for, is a luxury beyond compare.” I’m like you–I may say no to a lot of things my daughter asks for, but I will never deny her books. Thanks for another delightful post!

  2. I love the way your posts dance so smoothly between images and stories, to tie us together with one salient message. This one took me right back to Tunisia, where Joel and I went to a friend’s wedding about 4 years ago. I remember all of the women with their hummingbird undulations, the bright red scarf they tied low on my hips, and my body’s total inability to move in that way – but delighting in the effort, anyway. So glad that you’ve had such a good experience with your visitor!

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