We have all been living a version of a quarantine life since March. Oh, who am I kidding…I have been a pro at quarantining…or as some call it…isolating myself since I was a child.
I like being alone. I am obscenely shy by nature and I find myself isolating even when I am in public. I prefer doing shopping without visiting with people–get in get out. It’s not that I don’t hate people in general, it’s just that I live inside my head most often and I feel muddled when that security is breached by the real world. As a veteran of panic attacks in the local WalMart Supercenter, I am also trying to hurry and get my shopping done before I go into full-blown panic.
I have always been a homebody. I grew up with homebody parents. Dad was gone all week in the truck and when he came home Friday night, he almost literally didn’t move from the couch until time to leave on Sunday evening. Mom, another shy person, was not likely to attend any event that wasn’t required by motherhood or marriage. I joke with dad that he lives alone, I live alone and my son lives alone and we could all just live in one house…but all three of us would lose our haven, our nest where we decompress after socializing. I have lived alone for the past five years and while I am on the verge of temporarily moving in with my daughter, son-in-law and 2 grandchildren, I am already thinking about that time again when I open the door, shuck clothes, lie in bed and read with very few interruptions. It will be a pleasure to have grandchildren so near, but I certainly don’t want to be the spoiled fish that overstays its welcome.
As soon as I learned to read, which was fairly early, I had no reason to leave my home cocoon. I could lay in my bed or the floor or prop up on the couch and read over an entire weekend and not be the least bit sad about the outdoor events I may have missed. Nothing much has changed. More recently, I would be content with not seeing daylight if I am reading a good book, just want to stare at the wall or sleep as much as possible.
While I did all of the things teens did, my haven was my bedroom. We were very tightly budgeted and I had a very plain twin size bed that was one part of a set of bunkbeds that had belonged to my uncle. Uncle Larry was the youngest and when he left for VietNam after high school and I am pretty sure my grandmother kept his bunk beds as a reminder of the very young man who went away and returned with a tour’s experience under his belt and a small family.
My parents stacked for a while, but one early morning as a preteen, I fell from the top bunk to the hardwood floor, waking my parents and myself with my impact. We were all apparently sleeping pretty soundly until the crash, so once Dad and I had determined I was indeed still living, we all went back to sleep. I am sure it wasn’t long afterwards that we took the bunk beds apart and if I fell out of a bed after that, I didn’t have far to fall.
My favorite place was my own closet. The aforementioned hardwood floors were a feature of this late-midcentury model of house and it extended into our closets. We had 2 shutter style doors on each closet and once I shut the doors, I had my own little hideaway, as such. My dappled chihuahua, GiGi–who was always content to lay prone close by and she would snore softly as I read.
Our entire house was not that large. Or noise proof. I realized later, when I started getting out and about with my friends that there were several of this same style of house, a prefab, 3 bedroom, one bath, plopped down in different locations in our tiny town of Duke. The only differences were maybe the exterior or in the fittings installed. While we had white metal siding and turquoise trim, one of my school friends lived in a similar house with wood siding and maybe a dark blue trim. I often marveled at how crowded her house was…she was the youngest of seven girls…with 2 bedrooms available for kids an only one bathroom, I often thought there was a special place in heaven for mommas and daddies who had seven teenage girls and only one bathroom!
With this compact size home plus the hardwood floors…there was no hiding in our home. But even though my mom surely knew I was in my favorite spot–because my dog’s toenails clicking briskly as she caught up to me were a good indication of where I was, Mom also realized the gift privacy was– to be able to dive into a good book until mealtime or bedtime.
I could prop a pillow against a wall, have a blanket in winter or take advantage of the cool hardwood on the long, excruciatingly hot Oklahoma days and recline the breadth of the closet and have plenty of space to stretch out. While I didn’t hang many of my clothes, the smell of old wool jackets hanging above me made me at times cozy and at other times, itchy.
. One of my favorite books to read over and over was Heidi. I would pretend my cheese and milk were straight from the goat and the bread was the stuff of the Swiss Alps instead of the local Wamp’s Foodliner sliced loaf of white bread. I wept when she left her mountain home and rejoiced when she returned.
Other favorite books from this time were the Trixie Belden books, written by Kathryn Kenney. Oh, my! The library bookmobile had some of the series…but the variety store, Wacker’s sold the books. My grandmother went to Wacker’s every Thursday and summers meant I was with her; I was indeed in heaven with my own copies of the series of teen sleuths, the Bob-Whites. I never owned the entire series, but the copies I owned…I wore them out dreaming of solving crime with Trixie, Honey and Di…and probably the copy that got the most reading was when the gang goes to New York City, The Mystery of the Blinking Eye.
My hermit ways really didn’t change much as I raised children. Happily, we are all self-quarantiners and having 2 weeks after Christmas and before the New Year was an excellent time to stay indoors and read. My teaching job allowed me the same holidays as my kids and we all would read SOMETHING…
One book that I ABSOLUTELY connect with the winter break is The Shell Seekers by Rosamund Pilcher. The Shell Seekers had everything I craved in a book…an epic story set in the British countryside. I inhaled the story in spite of it clocking in at 656 pages, according to Amazon. I remember reading the book on New Year’s Eve, while we kept an eye on the ball dropping in New York City and continuing to read well into New Year’s Day. I felt as if I had lost a friend when I completed the book and staggered aimlessly through the library afterwards, trying to find another such story in which I could immerse myself. Pilcher has several other books that are fine, but none cast the same spell on me as did The Shell Seekers.
These days, we have so much media competing for our attention even at home, sometimes I long for the days when I held a real book and had the faux privacy of my closet where I could live through the characters of familiar books. Now, I get sidetracked trying to find out if Glen Road actually exists on Google Maps or if goats’ milk tastes in any way similar to the cow’s milk I have had all of my life. Back then, technology was very minimal, but without tablets and desktops, I wasn’t distracted by finding out where in the heck Cornwall is, an I am sure that it is nothing like I imagined it in my head back then.
The best book series to inspire the quarantine life when I was a child was the Little House set by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Oh, I could read the book while lying under the air conditioner and imagine those howling winds on the prairie where Pa had to attach a rope to the house to keep from getting lost in the snowstorm when he took care of the chores. I would feel like I was sitting with Mary and Laura in the evenings, stitching until their eyes could see no longer in the kerosene-lit abode and went to huddle in the bed to sleep with the wind and cold leaking through the chinks.
The last epic series I have read was Game of Thrones. Well, I actually read the series two times. Yes, you heard that correctly. I was going through a season of depression that was not so horrible that it invaded my attention span, but was strong enough I would spend hours and hours in my bed reading. Not much of a fantasy person, but the GOT series has both likeable and very unlikeable characters and one has dragons. To that point, I had never thought much about dragons, but even as a grown woman, I could see myself in my mind’s eye holding the beautiful eggs, waiting for them to hatch and wreak havoc or just sit on my shoulder. I admit, I wasn’t that infatuated with the Bran chapters, but I turned pages furiously while reading about Daenerys, Jon Snow, Cersei and that little punk Joffrey. When Sansa felt lonely in her home near the clouds, my depression made me wonder at living as far from society and really caring to see people.
Oh, to find a new series of page-turning goodness. I don’t camp out in my closet anymore, but I would still give an eyetooth to have such a series, a few days and my bed.