About six months ago, I undertook a foolish endeavor. I began reading Don Quixote. I don’t say this was foolish because I believe Don Quixote is an unworthy piece of literature. It was foolish because no person with multiple, young children has any business opening up any book of 900+ pages with the expectation of getting to the end while still remembering the beginning.
Nonetheless, for a few months, I made good progress for a man in my condition. That is to say, I was able to read about 10 pages most nights, in the interval between the children going to bed and falling asleep myself. On nights when I enjoyed particular vim and vigor, I might put up to 12 pages behind me.
I kept up this breakneck pace until New Baby was born. At that point, I was nearly 600 pages in.
Don Quixote (the first 600 pages of it anyway) is the story of man so swept up in reading romance novels about knights-errant that he slips into the delusion of himself being one of those ancient heroes. He sets off in search of adventures and causes mischief wherever he wanders, believing he is capable of mammoth feats and that it is his duty to display his prowess to the world. Whenever reality seeps in to disrupt the narrative he has devised within his head, he explains away the discrepancy with the excuse that evil wizards have enchanted him and used their spells to belittle his grandiose visions into ordinary, everyday things.
New Baby is two months old now, and I am on page 614.
Oh, but I used to read! I used to be the Lancelot of reading, tearing through books and piling up their used bodies in book cases to the ceiling. I took on classics, even the torturous ones, with no fear, occasionally triumphing by finding one that turned out to be a classic. I was a warrior of words.
You can watch TV while constantly changing the position of a crying baby in search of that one special pose that will settle him down. You can even play Farmville while rotating him. But it gets hard to read while juggling the kid from arm to arm. I’m catching up on all the TV programs I missed during my reading years. Thank goodness for reruns.
Meanwhile, Don Quixote stares down at me from the shelf. Once in a while, I notice this and I stare back at him. Every time, he looks more familiar, this man who deludes himself into thinking he can accomplish goals that are far beyond him. This man in the mirror.
My excuse is that I am enchanted. But my wizards are not evil. They are playful little goblins who vex my grand plans with a steady stream of wonderful, precious, ordinary, everyday things.