Defending my reading hobby

When I was a kid, my family would usually go to Ocean City, Maryland for about a week most summers.  OC was awesome to me then, though now I think it’s trashy.  To a child, the boardwalk is exciting, OC T-shirts are the bomb and nothing is finer than a make-your-own sundae from Candy Kitchen. (Actually, that sundae part still sounds like heaven to me.)

One year, I want to say I was about eleven, we were in OC and spending the evening on the boardwalk, when someone spotted a dude drawing people’s caricatures.  I can’t remember if the guy had a store front, or if it was just some dude squatting on the boardwalk.  Either way, my parents agreed that each of us five kids could get our caricature drawn.  Do you know what I mean about the caricatures?  He would draw us with overlarge heads doing whatever activity and over-charge my parents for the privilege of having a picture that looked nothing like us, drawn by an art school dropout.  Basically, a stunning display of capitalism at its finest.

My four siblings went first.  I can’t really remember exactly what he had everyone doing.  I know my oldest sister was running track, I think my next sister was in her cheerleader uniform, my brother was probably playing football and I’m pretty sure my youngest sister was roller-skating.

I hung back and watched, as always, until it was my turn.  I sat on the little stool and the caricaturist asked what it is I like to do.

“Read,” I answered.

The dude looked at me like I was from another planet and said, “No.  Like a real hobby.”

I don’t remember exactly what was said, but this guy got a new asshole torn by The Sandy.  (The Sandy = My mom.  More on The Sandy in a few minutes.) Because how fucking offensive to readers!  Like cheerleading is somehow more important than reading??? (Fact: I spent a short time as a cheerleader in middle school because I wanted to be like my older sister Carrie.  Another fact:  Carrie reads every bit as much as I do.)

I think he was appropriately chastised, because my caricature was the best of the bunch.  He drew a bookshelves around me, with me reading a book while sitting on another stack of books.  And a little glasses-wearing bookworm peeking out from a pile of books.  It was cute.  It was also the only caricature of all five that looked anything like who it was supposed to look like.

Now let’s move on to The Sandy’s defense of me.  I think it’s a lot harder for a parent to raise a kid who is shy and awkward and frankly, terrified of new people and situations than it is for a parent to raise a kid who is naturally outgoing and sunny.   My parents had four kids of the naturally outgoing variety……and me.

My mom was tops, I tell you.  She never pushed me to be anything but shy.  If I was shy, that’s just who I was and she never made me feel like I had to talk if I didn’t want to.  It was fine with her if I wouldn’t play with other kids, but would watch them play.  It didn’t bother her that on gorgeous sunny days I would sit inside and read all day.  (Fact: I did like to ride bikes in the neighborhood and play flashlight tag with the other kids.  But only after I finished whatever I was reading. I wasn’t a total loser.)

If I can do half the job that The Sandy did in respecting exactly who her kids were, then I will have done a fine job as a parent.

I love my mom.  I really really do.

Also, fuck you caricaturist.  Reading IS a real hobby.


About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
This entry was posted in General nostalgia, personal shit. Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Defending my reading hobby

  1. Alida says:

    You, my friend, are freaking awesome.


    • nikki says:

      Thanks! DFTBA back at you! Speaking of DFTBA, I’m on a John Green kick. I read Katherines last month and just yesterday finished Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Yay!

      • Alida says:

        Nice. I’ve already pre-ordered his new book. He’s read the first chapter to us a couple times, and I am completely in love with it already. It’s going to be hard to wait until January for it to come out. He’s a great guy, too. I was super nervous the first time I met him, but he was so cool about it. And the second time was easier. Have you read Looking For Alaska? That one’s my favorite of his, but if the rest of The Fault in Our Stars is as good as Chapter 1, it may become my new favorite.

    • nikki says:

      You know, I liked WG, WG. But I hated the ending. Loathed it. I wasn’t sure why the book suddenly became about validating Tiny Cooper.

      • Alida says:

        Yeah, that was kind of awkward. I don’t know why they did that. I also hate Maura so, so, so, so much. I can’t even describe how much I hate her for what she did. If someone did that to me, I would be so mortified and I would have handled it much worse than WG did. I understand that she was created to be hated, but my God, do I hate her. I also found it often frustrating to read David’s chapters, due to the formatting.

  2. Vanessa says:

    Amen! My parents raised a family of readers. It really weirds me out that my sister in law doesn’t read and my nephews think reading is a chore. I’ve managed to pick out a few books they liked (better to read Twilight than not read anything at all, right?) but they’re still not readers. My sisters turned me onto the Smiths as a teen; listening to Morrissey (a reader) sing about spending warm summer days indoors reading and writing awful poetry made me feel that it’s OK to be awkward and shy.

  3. Kevin says:

    Reading is clearly not a hobby. Now sitting in front of the TV watching a film adaption of what you could be reading?!? THAT’S a hobby!!!

    Take solace in the fact that the OC caricacurist probably died a pathetic, illiterate junkie. 🙂

    • nikki says:

      I like to think he was cursed with a Twilight-loving daughter and has to spend his days listening to her and her friends squee over Edward.

  4. That kind of makes me laugh that he acted like an ass about reading as a hobby. Because really, what does he do as a hobby? Doodle. No, I’m not bashing reading, drawing, or athletics, but if you’re going to be a jerk about not having an “active” activity, look in the mirror, “artist.”
    I think it’s really hard for parents to let kids be themselves– especially when you see yourself in your kids. Like, I know the chances of my future kids being nerdy and introverted are pretty high, and ya know, I feel kinda bad knowing that their genes will make them super awkward. But I know how me and the hubs turned out, so I shouldn’t be too worried… right?
    Yay for moms who believe “viva la difference!” And rip new ones in others who dare think it’s wrong to be unique!

    • nikki says:

      It drives me bonkers when people think that reading is a passive hobby.

      I am worried about my sons’ awkwardness. I hated being so shy and awkward, though my husband was (is) awkward too, and heis fine with it.

  5. Good for your mom!

    A while back, I was chatting/arguing with a friend about the film The Tree of Life (he loved it, I very vocally hated it). He said the scenes of the kids running around and playing brought back memories of his childhood. Me: “Yeah, I didn’t identify with that. I was the kid inside with her book.”

    Reading rules! Look at what awesome adults we’ve become. 🙂

    • nikki says:

      I did go out. I loved my bike and I liked to swim. And during the summer flashlight tag was the shit in the neighborhood. But books came first. Always.

  6. The author's awful brother says:

    Actually, I never got my caricature from what I remember. The Sandy probably got me a WWF shirt instead because she wouldn’t buy me the “Big Pecker’s Bar and Grill” tee shirt. Infuriating at the time, I can now look back and say that having a loud mouthed nine year old wearing a shirt with the word pecker on it does not display good parenting choices.

    • nikki says:

      I just talked to the Sandy. She clearly remembers the big pecker incident. She’s glad you now think she made the right call. Kids wearing a big pecker shirt =classy.

  7. Your Awesome Sister Carrie says:

    I believe my caricature was me playing the flute. I wasnt the rad cheerleader yet. But, I never knew you wanted to be like me, especially because I enjoyed kicking you in the face when you were little!

    I have to agree, it is few and far between you find a mom like The Sandy. I hope I am able to let my kids be comfortable in their own skin and really let them know that no matter what anyone says they are awesome just the way they are.

    • nikki says:

      Now that you mention it, I do recall the flute caricature. And as for kicking me in the nose…do you think I could ever forget that? I do still laugh every time I think about you throwing that ball in my face at the grocery store when I was pregnant with Grady. Seriously, I’m laughing right now because I just typed it.

  8. kathleen says:

    You and I are very different in a lot of ways, but I too was a shy, awkward kid who read a lot. I still enjoy reading. I’m still a nerd, but much less awkward. Anyway, enjoy your blog, even if I don’t always agree with you.

  9. Alex says:

    wow, love this blog for so many reasons. first, Nikki, you are fantastic. i have always been in awe of you because you ARE comfortable in your own skin and it took me a little while to get there. you rock. second, as you know, i too am an avid reader and i never understand people who don’t read. i never have. now, i know that since i was raised by PhD having, hippie crazy parents, i was predisposed to read but i firmly agree reading is a hobby and other than writing, it is my biggest hobby. third – The Sandy rocks. she is absolutely one of my fave people in the whole world. you and your sibs came from some kick ass genes. lastly, you are a fantastic momma and i have no doubt you will raise your kids in the spirit in which you were raised.

    • nikki says:

      So sweet Alex! But no. it’s only been the last few years that I’ve felt comfortable in my own skin. I must have put on a good act 🙂

  10. I love “The Sandy”. She always made me laugh, but I know how she can be when someone 1) does something wrong –heard stories from my sister– and 2) the fight she will give for any of her children. I love the fact that you talked about how you were as a child, as my child #1 is like that. It comforts me to know that he’ll turn out to be a stand up citizen, good parent and someone who really remembers what is important.
    I agree with you on OC nowadays! But, you have very fun, important memories that you can draw from to help create some like that for your children. I have always told my kids that academics are just as important as playing a sport and the academics/reading (for my kids at least, especially the first two who aren’t sporty) will always come first…besides family that is!

    BTW, John Green is the only author I could get my teenaged nephew to read. He read all the ones I had in about 5 days. I loved “The Abundance of Katherines” and “Looking for Alaska”.

  11. Kelly says:

    Three things.

    1) Your mom is awesome.

    2) John Green is ALSO awesome. I haven’t read Will Grayson, Will Grayson yet but I loved his others. (Looking For Alaska is my absolute favorite; cannot wait for the new one.)

    3) You’re insane. Ocean City is wonderful. C’mon, Thrasher’s fries?! I would commit murder if it got Thrasher’s here in Baltimore. (Um. We never had this discussion.)

  12. Shawnie says:

    We went to OC every summer too! I haven’t been in 10 years now.. sigh. Did you read Katherine Applegate’s Ocean City series? I never read the last one (I was probably in my 20s when it came out!) and I still hope to come across it at goodwill someday.

  13. I would generally write something funny or whatever, but I Learned An Important Lesson here today. About parenting my own quiet, shy, bookish daughter and letting the girl be. It was like a Very Special Episode of AYTY today for me.

    • nikkihb says:

      Ha! It’s easier said than done. I flipped out on my four year old for refusing to get in the pool for swimming lessons and crying about needing to learn to swim. I should have been more understanding. I failed my own first attempt at swimming lessons at the exact same age because I was too shy/scared. It was very difficult in the moment to sympathize with his fears and I’m afraid I wasn’t very kind to him about it. Both my husband and I are introverts. I’m not sure why it’s so upsetting to me that our kid is too……

  14. becky says:

    I just spent two or three days reading your entire blog whenever I could get a chance, and I absolutely adore it! Thank you for creating such a fun place. While reading I kept Amazon open to add books to my Used Kids & YA books wishlist (If only we had used bookstores still in my part of NJ), and I am itching to dive into the back of my closet in order to pull out some old favorites.
    another shy and awkward nerd,

    P.S. – John Green is a god. .. so nice and extremely talented!

    • nikkihb says:

      This might be one of the nicest comments I have ever received here. I know there are blogs out there that I’ve discovered and read the entire history in a few sittings. I just didn’t think I would ever be that blog for anyone else. Thanks for reading!

  15. Wow, you have a great mom. I’m sure you’re doing her proud with your kids (plural! belated congrats!). And I’m also sure they get read to all the time.

    • nikkihb says:

      The sad thing is, now that #2 is here, I’ve slacked on reading to #1 a little bit. I’m anxious for him to start nursery school in a few weeks for that very reason.

      • When I was around preschool age, it was still just my older brother and me (the surprise brother came later). At bedtime, Mom would read to me while Dad read to OlderBrother then they’d switch. Or Dad would read to both of us at once from a chapter book. So when the baby’s older and will sit still for a book better, it’ll be easier.

        When YoungerBrother showed up, just before OlderBrother and I turned 10 and 7, we almost made Mom cry by telling her it was okay to “love the baby more; he’s younger and needs more attention.” She was quick to correct us that she still loved us equally but we were older and could more things for ourselves. For the record, I don’t recall feeling neglected, despite telling Mom what I did. I’m sure your older child understands, or will understand. You seem like a great mom!

  16. My parents also raised me to be an avid reader, I believe it is absolutely a hobby! My parents have actually been in a book club for 20 years with the same 25 couples. I admire your mom’s parenting style, too. I hope someday when I have kids I will strive to cultivate their traits rather than suppress them.

  17. rachie rach says:

    Nikki, the same exact thing happened to me as a kid on vacation somewhere. My artist balked when I said my hobby was reading. He ended up drawing me holding a book and smiling. I wonder where that picture went! I cannot wait to be a mommy so I can pass my love of reading on to my kids. It’s such a gift to be a reader.

  18. Caitlin says:

    My boyfriend, father of my child, and all around generally mature 29 year old man, derives great pleasure from telling people about the sumemr he worked as a fudge-packer in Ocean City….at Candy Kitchen.

  19. Pingback: Because fuck cancer. That’s why. | Are You There Youth? It's Me, Nikki

  20. If that had happened to me, I would bust out a big speech about how important reading was to the mind and purposely bore him to death. ^.^

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