I’m one of those maddening people who, when you ask them what they want for Christmas/birthday/Mother’s Day say, “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t really need anything …”
And I’m (like all those other maddening people) perfectly sincere. I really don’t need anything. There are things I want, but that’s different. Frivolous. I don’t like asking for things that I want but don’t need. And I’m especially careful about asking for expensive gifts.
There was a time, not so long ago, when I never even had to think about that last – there wasn’t enough money in our bank account at any given moment to even consider a gift that cost over $25. But today, even with the poor economy, I have to be mindful because my sweet Mr Wren generally isn’t. He doesn’t buy a lot of things, but when he does, he tends to go overboard.
When he asked me what I wanted for Christmas a few weeks ago, I gave him the stock answer. He rolled his eyes – just like I do when people give me that response. Come on, I always think, help me out here! They don’t. And I didn’t help Mr Wren, either.
Fast forward to Christmas morning. Here we all sit in the living room, each one of us with a small pile of gifts. We start opening them. I get a beautiful, sparkly bracelet from Cary and Matt. A comfy warm-up suit in royal blue (my favorite color) from my mother (and it fits, which delights me later in the day when I try it on, as it’s in a normal size, not a “big woman” size).
I pick up the wrapped gift from Mr Wren. It’s smallish. Solid. I shake it. Nothing moves. He sits there next to me, grinning. “Open it,” he says. Matt and Cary stop opening their presents and watch. They’re grinning too.
What in the world? I think, and I tear off the ribbons and paper. And … OMG. It’s a Kindle.
I have always, since I was very small, loved to read. And I love books. I love the heft, the feel, even the smell of books. I love thinking about the process – of the author hunched over a desk, writing, lost in her imagination; of the publisher reading the manuscript and deciding the story is worth publishing; of the editor and author working together to clean and hone and polish the words so that the reader forgets she’s even reading; of the graphic designer choosing the font and style and perfecting the appearance of the book; of the typesetting, the huge presses, the book-grade paper, the ink; of the end-papers and the binding. As a reader, opening a new book is the first step of an adventure to me. If it’s a good one, I can fall right into the page and lose myself.
There really is little in this world that I love more than reading a good book.
But rheuma has taken much of that pleasure away from me these last two years. I can no longer comfortably read a book for very long. My hands throb and ache. It’s an effort of will to grasp it, even if it’s not very heavy. My fingers are fumbly, making it difficult to turn the pages. As a result, I do a great deal of my reading on the computer these days. But it’s not books I’m reading – instead I read blogs, news sites and other sites that catch my interest. None of them are stories. None are fictional, springing fresh from a writer’s imagination. Being unable to experience that particular form of creativity has saddened me, but I’ve accepted it.
I’ve found that I can listen to audio books if I’m driving, but in just about any other situation I can’t keep my mind on the reader and the story. I’m too distractible. I get antsy. I’m constantly losing my concentration and having to rewind and listen all over again. This destroys the continuity and annoys me – mostly at myself.
About six months ago I read a blogger’s post about the Kindle. He was considering getting one, but was holding off because like me, he loves books. He loves the physicality of books. And yet, he wrote that he could see the draw of an electronic reading device. No need to buy and find space for more bookshelves. Digital books were less expensive than the ones made of paper and ink. He wouldn’t have to lug a 450-page tome around anymore. There were upsides to getting an e-reader even though he found it disturbing to let go of traditional ink, paper and fabric books.
I found myself agreeing with the entire post, but for me, getting an e-reader wasn’t even something to consider. They were far, far too expensive, for one thing. Amazingly, prohibitively expensive. And because I love my books, I really couldn’t imagine trying to read them on an electronic screen, minus the solid weight of the book in my hands, even as sore as they were.
I told Mr Wren about that blog post. I mentioned my frustration with rheuma making holding a traditional book too painful for me, but how I found both the techie coldness and the high cost of an e-reader sort of off-putting. He listened. Nodded.
And he remembered.
So I am now the surprised owner of an Amazon Kindle e-reader. And you know what? I absolutely love it. It’s so light – it weighs only 10.2 ounces — that it’s no problem to hold. I can (and have) increased the size of the font to accommodate my middle-aged eyes and find pressing the flat buttons on the side of the device to turn pages forward or back an almost automatic response to reaching the end of a page. And to my delight, not only are e-books much less expensive than their paper-and-ink counterparts, there are hundreds and hundreds of them that are free. Anna Karenina, anyone? Pride and Prejudice? The Invisible Man?
I am so happy with this gift – and Mr Wren’s sweet thoughtfulness – my eyes tear up every time I think of it. He spent wayyyy too much on this gift, but I’ve already forgiven him. He made this Christmas a particularly special, very merry one for me. Mr Wren gave me back my books.