About Books

Last night I hit that roadblock of which you may be familiar:  I had nothing to read.  In my house, having nothing to read (and I mean reading for pleasure, not reading the stock reports) is a sad state of affairs, indeed.  We are voracious readers, and we share interest particularly in fantasy and science fiction.  We discuss plots and characters at the dinner table.  After which, we might hear one child wailing at the top of their lungs that another child has since stolen their book and won’t give it back.  Or worse, that one of the parents has stolen the book and hidden it to read later.  At some point during our parenting years, we both got so fed up with the constant fights over books that we had to instill the “You checked it out at the library, so you get to read it before anyone else” rule.

We are religious patrons of our local libraries.  In our 26 years of marriage, I’m sure that the late fees on our family’s collection of library cards have accumulated enough funds to put one or two people through college.

And since my husband and I both share this unquenchable obsession, over that same course of time we’ve accumulated a pretty decent stock of personally-owned reading material, in a wide range of genres.  There have been bookshelves in bedrooms, living rooms, and family rooms all through our house.

During one of our experiences of moving from one state to another (because of a promotion with my husband’s job), we had the pleasure of a moving service.  Two burly men came to our house and packed up all our things for us, and lickety-split, we were on our way to our new home.  These men then unpacked the truck and put all the boxes where I told them to, the little darlings.  Imagine my delight as I’m unpacking a box, and on the side of the box, written in fat sharpie pen, were the words, “Another damn box of books!!”  In defense of the poor guy who wrote this, there were indeed 30 boxes full of books, so I appreciated his sense of frustration.  After packing books all day, I might have written the same thing.

So here is a tragedy:  because we decided to move my studio to the basement of the house where there was more room, two ceiling-to-floor, wall-to-wall bookshelves had to be emptied of their contents because I needed the space.  The books were placed in boxes, because we had nowhere to put them at the time.  My beloved paperbacks are in banker’s boxes, amidst a stack of other bankers’ boxes, three stacks deep.  It was 9:30pm, and the library (as well as Barnes & Noble) were closed.

I sighed heavily to my husband and he asked me what was wrong.  I said I had nothing to read.  He commiserated, and told me to go raid my son’s bedroom.  This is the same son whom we’d just dropped off at the Army, and whom couldn’t complain, since what he didn’t know, wouldn’t hurt him.

“Yeah!” I replied, and happily wove my way around the clothes, stereo speakers, mattresses, display swords, drawing materials, foam armor, and musical instruments which littered the floor like a 12th level dungeon filled with traps.  Voila!  I circumvented the critical failures with no loss of health points, and reached the treasure trove:  lots of stuff I haven’t read yet.

There were a lot of things that grabbed my interest, but a slim volume caught my attention:  “Fatherhood” by Bill Cosby.  My husband’s family have been fans of his comedy since his Fat Albert days.  I personally had never heard his jokes though, until I met my husband.

One day, while snuggling on the sofa of my husband’s tiny apartment, he started telling me a joke about Noah and the ark.  As he’s telling this joke, he’s making faces and noises, and I’m laughing my head off, thinking I’m dating the funniest man on earth.  Of course, my delight just encouraged his ego, and he proceeded to tell me more jokes.

It wasn’t until we’d been married almost a year that I found a bunch of record albums he’d had packed away in a box.  They were Bill Cosby records.  I put one of them on the record player, and behold, the man had stolen my husband’s jokes!  When my husband came home from work, I promptly slapped him on the arm and said, “You lied to me!  You made me think those jokes were yours all along!”  He grinned, and in his lawyer-esque voice, made me madder by pointing out the technicality which got him off the hook:  “I never said they were mine.  I just told you the jokes.  You assumed they were mine, and I never dissuaded you of that assumption.”

Years later, I got over being mad about it, and actually decided to indoctrinate our children in the blessedness of The Cos.  On yet another move (or it might have been that same cross-country move with the two men who wrote nasty things on the sides of my book boxes), I had secretly gathered a horde of Bill Cosby routines on cassette tape.  With four days of driving ahead of us, I popped a tape into the tape player in my 9-passenger station wagon, in hopes that my children would stop tearing the foam out of the ceiling and padding out of the seats.  Cosby wove his magic, the stuff floating from the ceiling stopped looking like a snowfall, and my children sat mesmerized.  Little did I know that I had started something.  Over the course of years, my children wore out those cassettes, and can quote Cosby jokes verbatim just like their father.  I pity the women they’ve married, who will think they are so clever, particularly with one of my boys, who grew up to covet not only my husband’s records, but to comb garage sales in search of other Cosby LP’s.  He now owns a full collection (including the ones he brazenly stole from us.  But it doesn’t matter… my husband has all the routines memorized anyway).

So it was with a happy heart I picked “Fatherhood” out of the line of books on my son’s top shelf.  Now if you’re a Cosby fan, you will find this book filled with the same jokes he’s been telling about his children for 20 years.  They are good jokes, so you won’t be disappointed, even if you can quote them verbatim.  There are other things he’s said, which aren’t old material, and which made me laugh and stop my husband from reading his own book so I could read them to him.

Intermixed in with the jokes are pieces of just good common sense about what it means to be a dad.  I happen to agree with him, because he happens to agree with my husband on the basic philosophy of dadhood:  work hard, love your wife, and help around the house.

I remember laying in bed at 2 am, listening to an infant crying from the other room.  Our own version of a Cosby routine was being played out between my husband and I:  “It’s your turn,” I said.  “No, I changed him just before putting him to bed.  It’s your turn,” he replied.  “Yeah, but I nursed him an hour ago.  So it’s your turn,” I countered.  “Yeah but you smelled it first.”  His attempt at using logic on me was wasted effort, and I resorted to pushing, shoving, and tickling.  Unfair, yes; but it worked, and he got up and changed the baby.  But only because he knew I’d start spouting Cosby at him if he didn’t.

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