27 December 2007

Reading on the Fly

Riding the subway recently, I once again found myself standing next to a bookish-looking high school age girl. She is tall and gangly, with small, round glasses, and an over-stuffed backpack, and I have seen her more than a few times – she seems to share my habit of aiming for a specific spot on the train at a specific time of day. As the doors closed behind us, I noticed her hanging on tightly to one support bar, her head bowed. “Long day,” I thought to myself, and rather sympathetically at that.

My concern may have been misplaced. The girl was hanging onto the bar, head bowed, because she was trying to read the book that another woman, seated at the end of the row, had open on her lap. The several extra feet of distance between us meant I could not see what the book was, or make out any of the words, but the gangly girl had a view of every word, and seemed to be doing her best to take it all in, and not terribly concerned about quite obviously reading over someone else’s shoulder.


Although I certainly have my Billy Bigelow moments, I don’t spend too much time worrying about what I want my daughter to be. I do have a sense of what I want her to be like: smart; independent; happy; and most importantly, someone who contributes something good to the world, even on a small scale. Those qualities, however, can be present in a person doing many, many things, from architect to zoologist and any number of occupations in between.

Still, I have to confess to a moment of sweet, fatherly dreaming, a particular kind of jealousy, watching this high school girl reading (someone else’s book) on the subway. This was a fantasy of thinking about how much I would not mind if my daughter was as interested in books as I am, as this other girl seemed to be. This is fantasy, not least because I know nothing of my fellow subway rider, including whether she really was reading at all, or cares to do so in general.

If it’s the thought that counts, though, then there you have it. Tall, gangly, and bookish are OK with me, and I confess that I do feel confident that at some point – maybe even soon – my daughter’s interest in books will evolve from a desire to chew on them, to a desire to digest them instead.


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