Audio Bubble


I like walking on the rail around the lake near our house. It’s all paved, and I throw in a set of earphones and hit the trail. There aren’t many joggers, although I see one or two. Most people are out for a leisurely walk, often with their dogs. Everyone you encounter smiles and nods hello as they pass. It seems a bit impolite to bother them with small talk, like you’re interrupting a 19th century French promenade. We’re all wrapped in our own little bubbles on the trail. A dog might wander in and out of it, but we are all there for the silence, and our glimpses of nature, not the community at larger. And I listen to my audiobooks.

I love when someone reads to me. I always have. It’s even a better experience if the reader does voices for the characters.

My mother used to read to my sister and me. I remember her reading Heidi to us, and when I was quite young, there were any number of other books she read us–those Dr. Suess Books for Beginning Beginners. Hop On Pop, and The Digginest Dog, I remember quite fondly. I had both of them memorized in my toddler years. This pushed me toward being a lover of reading, and of hearing the spoken word.

Pistol River School was always divided between two teachers. I started there in second grade, when Mrs. Mary Mussler was the lower-grades teacher. She was a hundred years old, she told the class whenever they’d ask. We asked quite often because we thought she was funny. I don’t remember much about her except she had curled shortish, conservative black hair and she lived in Wedderburn. She taught us to brush our teeth well after lunch and she read the Mary Poppins books to us, as well as Amelia Bedelia. She read us Pippi Longstocking. Magic and pie-making nincompoops and pirate’s daughters. I have to say, the hour-or-so of reading to us aloud helped along my love of reading, and because of those incidents, I am deeply in gratitude to her that one year she taught.

When my dad lived in Jackson, California, I would while away the hot days of summer on the living room floor listening to the recorded (and very abbreviated) version of the Hobbit. I would listen over and over, reveling in the dwarves and wizards, and the swords and staves, and the goblins and wargs and spiders.

In fourth-sixth grades, Mister Hyde read to us too. He read Johnny Tremain, and we all followed along in our own copies. This was a fun exercise in reading for us also, it proved to trip up Mrs Plaep, our substitute teacher, when she took over reading, because she would skip over the parts she though were inappropriate. We all knew. We had our own texts. Mr. Hyde was a short man ( I was taller than him by 5th grade), and he pronounced Narnia wrong, but he read at least three of C.S. Lewis’s novels to us, if not more.

Early in our married years, Judi and I would take turns reading to one another–particularly the Kinsey Millhone novels by Sue Grafton, particularly on long car trips to-and-from Visalia or Auburn, or Oregon. One memorable trip to Oregon with Don Ryall, we listened to pretty much all of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Days.

I read novels, of course, like any librarian worth their salt would do, but I glean much more information the old-fashioned way. And I have all these people, and all those books, to thank for it. It’s a habit I’ve never really outgrown. And I get to walk and reminisce, in my own audio bubble, as I enjoy a fine spring day in Northern Virginia.

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