Sunday, June 25, 2006


"I read for escape," the Reader said. Take "read" in both the past and the present.

That's the conversation we had about books. Since I can remember, many of my memories of the Reader involve her reading; she read(s) mostly murder mysteries and romance type novels about 18th century English sailors (there are endless series of such novels).

I don't think she really heard herself speak about the escape, though. I wonder what she felt she had/has to escape from? I'm not sure I want to know, really.

The Reader complained that her life hasn't been as exciting as the lives of people she's met in her retirement community. I tried clumsily to say that she'd made choices, but she said she hadn't had choices. I tried, again clumsily, to say that maybe she hadn't recognized her choices as such. She chose to have kids, and before that to marry. And she read to escape.

I'm one of the kids. Did she read to escape me? Was I that painful a choice to have made?

She chose to marry, and says that she couldn't imagine not having married our Dad, that he was the best of men. But she read to escape.

My memories of my Dad are pretty much totally positive; he was a gentle man with a sense of humor, quiet, competent, caring. (When I first learned the poem about My Papa's Waltz, I had no clue that the kid saw the waltz as problematic, that the Dad in the poem was drunk, because I didn't comprehend at all that a Dad would get drunk or be frightening, or that dancing with one's Dad could be anything less than pure happiness.)

But I guess the Reader wanted more travel and excitement than my Dad and his work and sense of family responsibility entailed. They made "safe" choices, responsible choices. And she read to escape.

The Reader complained that we kids aren't responsive, aren't proactive in calling and such, that we've chosen to live across the country. She praised my cousins for their dedication to their Mom and step-Dad.

At breakfast, during a discussion of the importance of reading aloud to little kids, she laughingly told the other women at the table that she'd always had her nose buried in a book, and that when I'd come to ask a question or want to do something, she'd always have me wait until she'd finished a chapter or whatever.

And she reads for escape.


I think many of my choices, especially my choice to join the Peace Corps, to go back to school afterwards, simultaneously make the Reader jealous and frustrated/disappointed. She reads for escape.

I didn't worry about security or safety the way people who grew up in the depression did because she and my Dad made safe, responsible choices. So I am more free to take chances, more free to see and recognize choices, perhaps. They gave me that freedom while she read for escape.

I don't read for escape.


  1. Anonymous11:19 PM

    please take care of yourself.

  2. Nice post, Bardiac. I don't have much to add, but I'd be interested in hearing more of your thoughts and reflections on this after your trip.

  3. Bardiac,

    I'm finding myself identifying with and wanting to defend your mother.

    First of all, you probably love literature because she loved reading -- as a child, when you saw her engrossed in her novels, you probably thought, "hmmm, must be good stuff," and then learned for yourself how wonderfully transporting written words can be.

    "I read to escape," is a cliche -- but it expresses the passionate way novels suck us into another reality.

    I have four young children, and at the end of almost every day I crawl into bed with a good novel (often I eat chocolate or chips as I 'escape' into fiction.)
    As a mother (and as a psychotherapist and coach and writer) I am giving, giving, giving, producing, producing, producing, doing, doing, doing all day. I am expending energy - often on tedious tasks that must be done and done again -- cooking, cleaning, laundry. Do the dishes and they get dirty again. Do the dishes and they get dirty again.

    Reading is a time to replenish and recharge, to be nurtured by what the book gives without asking anything in return. For me it is a nourishing, consuming and consumptive activity. I get fed rather than feed.

    Granted that my literary tastes may be more high falutin' than your mothers. But I have the good fortune to do work that I love and to hire other women to do most of my laundry and much of my cleaning. If I was a homemaker, I'm sure that I'd be reading romance novels. I have the good fortune to have had my children late so that I got to live and travel all over the world before settling down to the drudgery-I-wouldn't-trade-for-the-world wonderful child-rearing years.

    You don't read to escape. But there may come a time in your life when you do. And you'll deserve it.

  4. I read to escape as a child. Though my upbringing was as good and bad as most other's, I rarely had a chance to travel and books take you places. While friends from school would spend summers in "their country", or Florida, my family would stay in our native NY. To get away from the drudgery, I used books as a mental change of scenery.

    Now books are less an escape for me, but when life gets a bit dull or exasperating here and there, there is always a book to lose myself in.

  5. Bardiac, I'm coming late to this post, but I had to comment. I had a relationship with my mom very different from yours with your mom (how weird, btw, to put that in the past tense) but my mother also admittedly read to "escape." She was the same generation as your mom, I think (judging from your reference to the Depression) and she made the same "choices" that really seemed to her the *only* options, and was never quite happy with them. But I never thought of it her desire to "escape" as a desire to escape me or my siblings. My father, yes (and again, *very* different relationship, as well as a very different person from your dad) -- but not the kids. Or even it was an escape from "kids" as a concept, it wasn't about us personally, if that makes sense. At any rate, I always understood and even identified with her dissatisfaction, I think, and in a way I'm living the life she would have wanted. (I like it, too!)

    So, anyway, I can see some of myself and my mom in your post.