Bonding over books

My daughter, Catarina, has recently begun reading books.

Well, she sits on the floor with them open in her lap and talks in an alien language while turning the pages. Not so much reading, but at least imitating what Veronica and I do when we read to her.

Catarina’s first book was Hush Little Polar Bear. She’s already worn it out, the binding taped back together.

She likes Corduroy and Elmer. And she loves Barnyard Dance, especially when you read it in a sing song voice. Her favorite book is Moo, Baa, La la la by Sandra Boyton. She really likes it when you read the different dog barks. I’ve tried to get her to like a book about a newspaper delivery boy, but she doesn’t seem interested. Perhaps that is for the best, the last thing we need is another journalist in this household.

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My family has read books as long as I can remember, which I guess isn’t all that different from anyone else. Though it felt like my parents took it to another level.

Once a month growing up, we would visit the Seattle Public Library, getting lost in the catacombs – trying to avoid the strange folks that hung out there – and were allowed to pick out three books on each visit.

We did this for as long as I can remember. I guess when you don’t have a lot of money, you have to take advantage of the library.

Eventually, we graduated from the Seattle Library to a used bookstore in the neighboring town of Redmond.

We went there often, trading in old copies to earn credit to buy new used books.

These trips helped develop a lifelong infatuation with used bookstores, though I admit I do a lot of my book shopping online these days. But there is something magical about walking into a bookstore and thinking of the possibilities that lie in the thousands and thousands of pages spread out before you.

History. Knowledge. Passion. And so much more.

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When Catarina was in the hospital in Richland very early in her life we had a lot of downtime. And it was easy to sit around worrying and wondering what might happen next. So, rather than just watch TV and pace the room, I found solace in reading books. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. books specifically.

I remember the second day we were in the hospital, with no end in sight, I went home and grabbed 10 of the 12 Vonnegut books I own. When people came to visit, it became a bit of a talking point. I guess they thought I was crazy – but what better way to get the possibility of your child dying off your mind than reading all the hilarious and fascinating stuff Vonnegut spilled on his pages?

I didn’t make it through all 10, but I guess in a way, it was the first times I had read to my daughter. It certainly wasn’t the circumstances I had hoped to do that under, or probably the subject matter that was appropriate (see the cat? see the cradle?), but what can you do?

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While visiting my parents this summer my mom gave me a bag of books. She said she was going to donate them to Goodwill, but figured she’d let me go through them and decide if I wanted to keep any of them.

My parents, who are in their early 60s, are on the pathway to retirement and are slowly downsizing their house, as they prepare to eventually move to a smaller space.

Part of this process is giving away books, toys, pictures, furniture and plenty of other items.

My little family has already benefited from their benevolence, picking up some dishes, the aforementioned books, and what we call The Little Kid’s Table (another story for another time).

The final night I spent my vacation in Spokane, my mom and I spent looking through stacks of books. It was a pleasant August evening, my wife and daughter were already in bed, my dad was watching some old TV re-run while conducting whatever business had him busy at the moment.

As we sifted through the reams of paper, it brought forth stories from my mom, stories of trips traveled, stories of things learned, and stories about the books themselves.

I eventually settled on nine:

Glamorous Powers by Susan Howatch

Ultimate Prizes by Susan Howatch

Scandalous Risks by Susan Howatch

Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Rose by Martin Cruz Smith

Dance with a Poor Man’s Daughter by Pamela Jooste

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Having an infant, means most of my reading is done late at night when I get home from work. It’s really the only quiet time I’m in the house.

Well, that’s not entirely true, I of course read a million things at work, on my phone, on my tablet and pretty much everywhere I look.

But there is something different about sitting down and reading a good paper book. Curling up on the couch with a hot cup of coffee (not in the middle of the night for that part) with the rain falling outside and ripping through a good novel is pretty much my version of Zen. As I slowly progress through the bag of books my mother gave me, it makes me hope that I’m passing down this familial love of books to my daughter.

It’s hard to say what hobbies your children will actually like. She seems to like reading and being outdoors, those are two good ones. I don’t think she’s too sure about watching or listening to sports, though she loves to dance, which makes her mother and aunt happy.

No matter what traditions she chooses to follow, though, I hope one day her and I connect over them the same way my parents and I connect through books.

– Craig Craker


One Comment Add yours

  1. Randy says:

    pretty special son….i’m glad you have taken to heart our love for books. I always wanted you to explore the whole world and that is one way to do it. Happy reading.


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