Archive for June 28th, 2009

A Place to Read

I hReading bookaven’t been there in more than six years but I could walk there in my sleep.  Down the front steps of the Archbishop’s Mansion in San Francisco, turn right and walk for two blocks.  On the corner sits a coffee house with butcher block tables and no noise save for the hiss of the steamer.  It is dark but, not dreary.  It is welcoming but, not overly friendly.  It is one of a thousand places I have picked over the years as a place that would be perfect for sitting for hours and reading.  As the mom of a toddler and two teenagers, sitting and reading for two hours is not going to happen but, I can fantasize about it.  Imagine all of the places I will return to one day and just sit, read and enjoy.

I know I could sit in my living room and read but, I don’t think reading is all I am looking for.  I am looking for that place where I can be alone with my book but not lonely.  That place where I will look up and see other people living their own lives.  The coffee house is just one of them.  There I know I would see others reading but I would also see the couple come in for a muffin and a coffee.  Him in his jeans and t-shirt, her in her slightly too dressy for a coffee house dress – what I once would have referred to as the walk of shame.  No shame here though.  He holds her hand and she smiles up at him as he asks whether she wants to split two different muffins.  I would be a part of their lives but, they wouldn’t know it.

At the tidal basin in Washington, DC there is a memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt.  It is one of my all time favorite places to take out of town guests because most people don’t know about it and it is just so lovely.  Running water makes a summer day there feel cooler.  The children love to climb over the rocks set throughout the park and the adults stops occasionally to read the many quotes attributed to FDR.  There are benches throughout the park, almost all of them under trees offering shade and protection from the heat of a DC summer.  I love the idea of sitting there and watching the tourists as they make their way through the park.  I imagine myself reading my book and listening to the sound of the running water and the laughing children as they clamber over the rocks or stick their feet into the pools of water.  I imagine a mom who, needing a break from the world of toddler adventures stands at the edge of the fountain and just watches and listens.  She doesn’t have to chase them or entertain them because they are happy to be here.  There are no roads to worry about and the fountains are barely ankle deep so if they fall in the worse that will happen is they’ll get wet.   I imagine her meandering over the single bolder that sits off to the side and being so thankful for the little reprieve this secret find of DC has offered her.

Just southwest of London, there is a bench, again under a tree, but this time in a field of daffodils.  Most people don’t know about it because they are too busy looking at the gorgeous rose gardens or the palace itself.  It sits just on the other side of a parking lot by Hampton Court Palace.  Those who do know about this little section of English beauty are almost all in their sixties or seventies.  They come here on their way home from the grocery store and they walk slowly around the perimeter.  They stop to watch the children through the gate that leads into the main garden.  They talk quietly among themselves and then they leave.  This is one of the quietest places I would sit to read but, the beauty is so simple and so fresh.  Such a testament to why I love England in the spring.

These days I can’t sit for hours reading or watching people, giving them lives from my imagination.  I am too busy with my own children and my own busy life, but I can think about it and dream about it and plan for it, searching out new spots and one day, when my children are all grown up, I can head out the door with that book and choose from one of the many spots I have stumbled upon over the years and finally spend hours under that tree, on that bench reading, watching and enjoying every minute of it.

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