Last night I did it again. Under cover of darkness, unbeknownst to my sleeping husband next to me, I spent a few hours with a stranger – in a book.
Of course, when you stay up late reading about characters in a novel, they’re not strangers anymore. You know them. You care about them. That’s why it’s so easy to keep turning pages long past the time that common sense tells you to put the book down and get some sleep. Anticipation keeps even the heaviest eyelids propped open for just one more chapter.
Work deadlines, household chores, errands and obligations melt away. It’s impossible to see the basket of laundry or think about tomorrow’s to-do list because I’ve “left the building,” so to speak. I’m in a different world, anxiously watching the characters sort out their problems.
A great book keeps me lingering over pressing questions: Who did it? Will they find justice? Will she fall in love? What is his secret? Will she overcome fear? Will they get back together? Will good conquer evil? Will they live or die?
It’s those urgent questions that make me kid myself into thinking I can function on just four or five hours of sleep. When the alarm goes off at 6:45 a.m., the joke is on me. “I’m an idiot,” I think to myself as I face the clock and silently promise, “I will never do this again.”
But of course I will do it again because people in love – even people in love with books – sometimes do irrational things when they’re caught up in the moment. There have been lots of fictional people whose lives have kept me bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived for weeks on end. Harry Potter did it. The women of “The Help” did it, and so did Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games. And yes, I’ll admit, even those angst-ridden, vegetarian vampires of Twilight cost me some much-needed snooze time a few years ago. I couldn’t help myself. I’m a book junkie.
Genetics are at least partly to blame. When I was growing up, I’d often wander downstairs for a drink of water in the wee hours and find my dad still sitting in his recliner with the reading lamp on, engrossed in his latest science fiction novel. He was always surprised when I told him it was already one in the morning, saying that he wasn’t even that tired. A good story will do that to you – give your mind renewed energy even when your body is begging for a break.
Book addiction has wormed its way into my kids’ lives, too. I take the Kindle away from our 11-year-old at night because he has been known to sneak it under the covers and read well past bedtime on school nights. And one day 6-year-old Kate told me – in a grand, dramatic fashion, as little girls are prone to do – that the day she read the first Junie B. Jones book was “the day I fell in love with reading.” Now she defies drowsiness for a chance to read Junie’s next grade-school adventure.
Even though I’m dragging around today from lack of sleep, I’m already looking forward to tonight, when the house gets quiet again and the novel resumes. I’m in that delicious part of a book when you feel both desperate to find out how it ends while simultaneously dreading the last page, reluctant for the story to be over.
Thankfully, there will be more nights, more books and more questions to be answered. But first, maybe I’ll take a nap.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.
Author Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography