06e5bfc3c36b7370613414065d12cd6eI drink wine because my mother drank wine.

I traveled young because I believe that, if she could go back, she would have traveled young. I read, most definitely, because of her, but I don’t say that in the way that one might think.

I was born in a library.

Not really, but my mother’s postpartum looked like us napping away in a stroller, with her drinking warm cups of tea and meditating somewhere between the shelves of science fiction and romance. And yes, as we got older she did continue to take us to the library once a week to replenish our stock. We did have model bookshelves brimming at home. But I don’t think that’s what created a love of reading.

My fondest memories are my most mundane ones and, in delightful retrospect, I find that the snapshots of those mundane memories — the ones that had me perhaps building things with old recyclable cartons or colouring on a Sunday afternoon — always have a slightly blurred image of her in the background, legs tossed up on the sofa in a z shape, with an old throw covering just her toes, and reading a book.

This is the image of my childhood happiness. I read now because I came to understand the meaning of “contentment” through this image. Peace. Quiet. Sailing away to a far away land on just words, letters, paper, binding and a gentle heartbeat. Contentment was usually sitting just a few feet away, hardly ever interacting with my play, but always incredibly effective.

We were a family that had to move quite a bit and so home really did become where the heart was; security had never meant bricks or blankets. For me, safety looked like young me swimming in a sea of Barbie dolls on the floor and my back facing the sofa that almost always carried a pair of z-shaped legs and a hardcover.

It was in those days, when we apparently had nothing, that her love for the book was transported. It was transported to me through her peace in the presence of books, no matter what life was giving her.

For a chunk of time we lived in an old home in the Southern Ontario sticks. I remember no money troubles, or power outages. I certainly don’t ever remember feeling poor, as they now reminisce we were. I do have images of days of December darkness, but only fondly, sitting, huddled close together in front of a fireplace. I have a vivid image of lying parallel to the hearth, content with having nothing else to do. I took my book out because she took hers out. We had but the flames to light our pages, and I think we layed there all winter.

As if it was her way of teaching me that anything was possible in life, all winter, we read books in front of the fire.

No, I don’t think I read because she surrounded me with books or encouraged me to read. While that may have helped with my development, meaning that I can read now (as many are able to do). I think I enjoy reading because of the memories I have of her reading — that peace, that quiet.

I read, because I grew up seeing her read. Eventually carrying my book under my arm like she did, traveling to the sofa, tossing my legs up, balancing our glasses of wine, grabbing whatever to cover our toes. And there we would sit, whatever house, whichever street, z-shaped legs, wonderfully, in the pleasure of each other’s company, in the pleasure of our own pages.

Quite simply: I read now because I saw her reading.


One thought on “To see her reading by Kristen Ndiaye

  1. I love the image I conjured in my mind of mom reading while you were contentedly surrounded by books….tea and books are 2 great loves of mine!


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