Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Books on Vacation

All of my vacations are twined up with books. Plane rides with paperbacks splayed open on the seatback tray. Car trips with audio books.

Years later I can call up memories of the trips-- the sightseeing, the restaurants, the company-- scenes of the novels twirling around the edges. Rebecca at a motel pool. A Sarah Dessen novel on the flight home from Barcelona. A novel about the end of the world on a college search trip.

My honeymoon I picked up a copy of A Prayer for Owen Meany in the airport bookstore. I read the book on the plane and at stray moments at the beach. I remember the crazy heat of the Mayan ruins, the lobster cruise with hokey pirates, the surreal thought over and over that I was married, that this guy strolling along beside me through the outdoor markets haggling over a Mexican blanket was now my husband... and Owen Meany with his strange high voice. A freak accident at a baseball game.

I read Grapes of Wrath on a beach in Destin. My toddler son played in the sand at my feet and I sipped coke under an umbrella, worried about my son getting a sunburn, worried about the Joads starving to death during the Dust Bowl.

A Cape Cod trip when the kids were in elementary school. A weathered house on a rocky windy beach. Fried clams and bike rides and my daughter getting her ears pierced in Provincetown. The whole time I was sneak-reading The Witching Hour. The breathless prose. The evil lurking around plantations. I was having a hard time putting the damn book down. I started entertaining the kids with the g-rated sections of the story and they begged me to read more, shushing each other to be quiet so I could find out what happened next.

A 20-hour car trip with my husband going back to my hometown for a visit, listening to Flowers in the Attic, claustrophobic in the car, trapped in an attic with incestuous siblings, stopping for pizza in the boonies of Pennsylvania, feeling anxious about poisoned powdered donuts.

Flight Behavior on my California book tour.

Beach Music on a boat ride, water splashing the pages.

A car trip with my mother, cracking up over Will Grayson Will Grayson.  

Fangirl on a trip to Florida, my husband blinking tears, our daughter in the backseat, not listening, and then listening, asking us to play the first chapters again so she could hear what she missed.

Station Eleven two days ago on a flight to San Francisco and back. What might have been our last vacation as a family. Grown son working at Facebook. Daughter three weeks away from going off to college. A twenty-fifth anniversary trip for my husband and me.

We walk up and down the steepest hills I've ever seen. Spy sea lions and Mark Zuckerberg. Eat enormous burritos. A street poet types out a poem for our daughter. We snap pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and search for elusive public restrooms.

Stuck on East Coast time, I wake earlier than everyone else. Drink my crappy hotel coffee in the dim light. Read my book. Fold over pages and read passages like this one:

"She was thinking about the way she'd always taken for granted that the world had certain people in it, either central to her days or unseen and infrequently thought of. How without these people the world is a subtly but unmistakably altered place."

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