I was reading an article recently describing a family evening in some remote and rural world, well over a century ago. It did not sound too dissimilar to a typical evening for me today. The family was sitting around the fire, reading aloud.
We don’t often have the desire or nearby location to go out to dinner or stop in somewhere for a drink; don’t have the energy to be out dancing after working around the ranch all day; don’t have light enough to work on fine and relaxing crafts like beading or needlework; and just by choice, don’t have television.
For many of you, this may sound boring. For others, a bit curious. And for others still, quite idyllic. For me, it is just right. This was my choice – I could live elsewhere, or find other ways to occupy myself, or even hook up satellite TV. But then I would read about that family from far away so long ago, and feel a longing. I don’t long for TV or for a big social life. I’m lucky enough to have had both in the past, and I found I simply enjoy my life now more. Like I often tell Forrest, we are so fortunate in this country to be able to create the life we want and believe is right. Within reason and with some limitations, of course. But as such, that give us the both the opportunity, and the obligation, to consider where our deepest happiness does lie. And then to pursue that life.
It’s a typical night here on this snowy mountain.
We have dinner at our table – that big one Bob and his dad built for us, where there is always room for one more. We only take up half the table, at best. The other half is usually cluttered with school books, bills to pay (yes, even up here), crafts projects, papers with our “to do” lists. Bob cooked tonight – that is NOT typical. (It was his night for Family Night – but that’s a whole other story…)
Candles are lit on the table, as I’ve tried to do most every night since Forrest was old enough to sit up and eat.
Dinner lasts a while, not only because we three have big appetites after running around all day up here, but because we sit and talk. Sometimes we are silent, and we are at peace with the silence. It is comfortable. We are used to it, and don’t need the conversation to fill in the blank spaces.
Now, I’m on the sofa in front of the fire, a cup of tea on the little bench beside me, Bob sitting next to me with a cat in his lap and dog by his feet. I’m either writing or reading. Often reading out loud to the boyz. Adventure stories, articles of interest, poetry, Shakespeare, …. Forrest is at the counter behind us, working on his school studies. He’s more creative in the evenings, though has quite a time getting rolling in the mornings. He’s 15. Nothing unusual there.
For a special occasion, we may borrow a movie from our cousin in town, and usually make a big production out of it, the three of us squishing into the small sofa with our tea and popcorn to watch the big screen of the lap top. And we actually have a VCR unit on loan from an aunt and uncle, with a set of tapes on Astronomy. It has taken us now two, three, dare I say four? years to get through this program, and we’re still not quite there. It’s wonderful, we enjoy it. But there are just so many other things to do in the evening. I think we’d rather watch the stars than watch a program about them, but you know, it’s mighty cold out there at night!
TV may be fine for some, just not for me. I take far more pleasure in reading a well written book, and creating my own picture in my mind. And watching the news troubled me, saddened me for the world around me. It’s not that I prefer to be ignorant of my surroundings and remain isolated in my own little world, tempting as that notion may be. I try to read the news daily on the computer, and weekly (if we check our mailbox) read the one news magazine we subscribe to. But I just don’t handle well hearing about every disaster and crime and bad person out there. I’d rather hear about the good ones. But they are rarely mentioned. I’d rather hear about the little things, the nice things one neighbor did for another. But this is never discussed.
When we travel, spending the night in a hotel or with family and friends allows us plenty of time to get our fill of television. We have enjoyed shows like one we saw on the construction of the Al-Can highway, or another on a family building and then donating to charity a slick motorcycle, or another on how toilet paper is made. For real! All quite fascinating, but for me, it just doesn’t replace a good conversation or a good book.
Last weekend, Bob had a trip to town that required him to spend the night in a hotel. The following night, back home safe and sound, was spent sitting around the kitchen table, with Bob recounting each of the programs he had seen the night before. It was story hour, based on the shows he had seen the previous night. We learned about one man who escaped from some horrible but staged situations, and how the Romans built their stone empire. It was plenty of entertainment for this family.
When we married, Bob traded in his TV for home cooked meals and long evenings at the dinner table. Forrest was raised this way, so it doesn’t cross his mind to be entertained in the evening any more than telling stories, talking shop around the kitchen table, and reading together out loud. Otherwise, he carries on with his school work, writes poetry, or reads a good novel. (Yes, and since he is 15, there is music on in the background and a few “instant messages” going back and forth while he is doing his homework…)
Call me boring. But I’ll happily sit here on this sofa near my husband and son, and read and write any evening, and consider myself very lucky I have the time. I made the time.