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November 28, 2008

Reading in Bed

I think that except for the obvious things, like eating, and sleeping, and breathing, etc., I haven’t been doing anything as long I’ve been reading in bed. Not continuously, of course (unfortunately, though I do give it a run for my money most every Saturday morning– am I ever not late for brunch? I don’t think so. Now you know why) but nearly every night for about twenty five years, I’ve propped my head up on two pillows and read by the light of a bedside lamp. These days I do so beside my husband, and such symmetry is all the domestic bliss I ever dreamed about as a girl. He usually turns off his light before I do mine, but he understands that no matter how late it is, no matter that I might get just a page or two read, that for me reading in bed in just as much a part of getting ready for bed as is flossing (though I remember to read in bed much more often).

I used to get in trouble for reading in bed. I used to go to school and tell my teachers that, so they’d feel sorry for me, and were usually uncomprehending about how any parent could be so cruel. No one understood, however, that without the “lights out” call, I would have never gone to sleep. So I used to have to resort to extremes in order to keep reading– under the covers with a flashlight, hiding in my closet with the light on, or demanding that the door be left open a crack and reading in the dimmest of light. (I used to get in trouble for this too, for reading in the dark. “You’ll need glasses,” my parents warned me, which was the wrong thing to say. Because I lusted after glasses, they were my very heart’s desire. I resolved to start reading in light that was only dimmer).

Reading in bed has gone on through a variety of living situations. My parents stopped with the lights out, eventually, and I used to fall asleep in my cereal instead. I see now that I was lucky that my roommate never complained about how the light shone on and on during my first year at university. When I traveled in Europe, I read in my bunk with a flashlight. During the three months I lived in a youth hostel in England, a cheap and tiny reading lamp that clipped to my bed stand was my most cherished possession. When we lived in Japan and slept in a loft that we could hardly sit up in, we read by a thin florescent light on the wall that buzzed on with the pull of a chain, and when we were finished went out with a pop. Recently I was reading and my lamp’s light bulb burnt out, without a spare in the house, and I was so distressed and would not rest until my husband gave me his. We were less symmetrical that night, but I felt better, and he got to go to sleep…

Reading in bed in the mornings is something different– more indulgent, less essential. It can never be just a page or two either, and time always stretches on for hours. Until so much light comes in through the window that I don’t need my bedside lamp at all, and then I start to see the point of getting out of bed. Eventually.

3 thoughts on “Reading in Bed”

  1. Soojin says:


  2. Joan says:

    Said so very well and oh how true…..

  3. Meg says:

    Kerry I’m so glad both of us are already married otherwise I might have tried to ride off with you into the sunset. Even now as an adult not sleeping in my own bed is traumatic —the first thought that enters my mind is how and where will I read myself to sleep? I’ve had many people tell me it’s a disorder -now I feel validated! THank you 🙂
    By the way I saw your husband at the subway this morning. He was a grouchy morning bear 🙂

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