There I am, sleeping in my father’s recliner.
Mostly he was the one who slept in that chair. He always started by reading The Daily Record, the local paper out of Wooster. It was delivered in the late afternoons then, and it was still a full-size broadsheet, and he read it after supper. He tried, anyway. He liked to recline back, just to relax, of course. The paper started out crisply propped on his belly, one hand on each side, and he managed through the front page and the letters to the editor. If one of the local cranks had gotten a letter into print, he’d read that one aloud. Deeper into section A, the paper started to sag. The clatter of dishes in the sink brought the paper back up a few times, but eventually the newsprint settled gently over his face, where it rested until he snuffled himself awake with a half-baked snore. The progressive rustle of newspaper was the soundtrack of my childhood evenings, and it was never a problem, because it was always possible to sneak the back section away and read the funnies.
We were a reading family. At least once, it was suggested to my mother that she let her children read too many books. Where else would we have Gotten Such Ideas? I’m not sure what she thought about that — the judgment of others is never exactly fun, even if you’re pretty sure they’re wrong — but it didn’t inspire her to remove any of the books from the house, or stop taking me to the library to check out stacks of books I could barely carry out the door. We didn’t have a television, so I missed out on the Brady Bunch, but I got Anne of Green Gables and Across Five Aprils and all the Newbery Medal winners I could find in our small library. I don’t feel deprived.
There were bookshelves in the living room, near the dozing chair, but there were books on my parents’ bedside tables, too, and in every bedroom in the house. The small cabinet in the front entry was stuffed with Janette Oke novels and other wholesome entertainment. When I had run through all the library books in the house, I plopped down there and rummaged through for something I hadn’t read in awhile.
Still, I don’t remember anything in the house being off limits. Maybe my parents hid some books from me, but everything visible was up for grabs. In elementary school, I read the encyclopedia. I skipped around from topic to topic, looking up anything I’d found interesting in the last entry I’d read. It was Wikipedia rabbit-holing without the screen. There was even a book on end-times theology that gave me nightmares. That one might have disappeared for a while after I appeared at my parents’ bedside in the middle of the night too often. I had that nightmare often enough that at least once I was afraid to wake them up and I went to lie in front of my brother’s door instead.
So despite it being my father’s chair, I suppose it wasn’t all that unusual to find one of the kids in occupation, reading and dozing in fine family tradition. Someone made a real decision to take that picture. Cameras were not at our fingertips — as close as the nearest smartphone — in 1980, and also I was the fifth child. I’m glad they did.
Because really, I was awfully cute.