Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reading in the Dark

No, I don’t mean Dancing in the Dark, though I am a Bruce Springsteen fan. I’m talking about being so addicted to reading that, as a child, you tried reading under the covers with a flashlight late at night.  Is there anyone else out there who did that? 

I have a vivid memory of doing this, using the only flashlight I had handy—one of those tiny flashlights I got at the circus.  Of course, I was supposed to be asleep, but I was such an avid reader, that there were a few nights that I tried to read past my 8:30 PM bedtime.  When I was caught, can you guess what my mom said?  I’m sure you can: “Reading in the dark will make you go blind, and then you won’t be able to read at all.”  That was threat enough to make me stop cold turkey.

I’ve yet to overcome my childhood addiction to reading, and I’m sure there are worse things to be addicted to. I read one to two books per week, and look forward to reading more when I’m on vacation.  On my last two vacations, though, I was hard pressed to squeeze in much reading.  My boot camp week wore me out so much that I’d start reading each evening and be unable to stay awake for more than a few pages. My long Columbus Day Weekend with my aunt and sister was filled, not with workouts, but with shopping leisurely lunches and chit chat, not to mention my requisite afternoon nap.

The first evening, I started reading The Last Child by John Hart, and it was slow going at first, so I wasn’t tempted to read much at night.  Once I got into it, however, that changed, and two evenings I stayed up past midnight because I just couldn’t put it down. That would have been fine if I’d been sleeping in, as I like to do on vacation, but since both my sister and aunt are early risers, I was up early too.

Late night reading and childhood memories reminded me of a WSJ column I read earlier this year, The Kid Who Wouldn’t Let Go of ‘The Device’.  The author tells the story of a child who was given The Device at age two and couldn’t put it down and carried it everywhere, a child whose addiction continued into adulthood, someone who panicked at the thought of being without The Device for any amount of time. The punchline? She’s writing of her own addiction to books and thinking of today’s parents who may be worried that their kids are addicted to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the other technologies cropping up. 

The parallels are thought provoking for me, as I well remember being labeled a bookworm, and not in a nice way.  My parents worried that my addiction would doom me to being shy and unpopular—something that never came to pass. Today’s parents worry about the effect all this technology is having on attention span and social skills. Who knows? Those may be unfounded worries too.
Me?  I’m happy that these days, we can all read just about anything in the dark—without a flashlight—as long as we have a tablet, a laptop, a backlit kindle or a Smartphone.  And, hey, I’ve been known to resort to candlelight in a pinch.  After all, it was good enough for Abe Lincoln.