I have always been a voracious reader. As a child, I preferred reading to almost any other activity (except maybe riding horses.) I remember one time my father came into my room (which faced the street), pointed out the window and said "Why don't you go out and play with the other kids?"
"But Dad, I'm reading!" I replied. I couldn't grasp how he didn't understand that sometimes there was nothing more absorbing than a good book.
I was lucky in that regard, because I come from a long line of dedicated readers. My mother's family all read, all the time. My Aunt D jokes about how boring we are when we're together on New Year's Eve, because we're all typically absorbed in books, and it takes a real effort to rouse oneself in order to get champagne and drink toasts.
One of the best things my Mom did when I was very small was create two things: The Book Box, and The Book Bag.
The Book Box was a large metal storage box that lived under the bed in the guest room, and which locked. In it were all sorts of amazing books, which she doled out as needed: when one was ill, if one had done well at school; if it was a week of rain on a vacation, that sort of thing. They were always special; perhaps fabulous picture books of Russian Fairy Tales; one of a series of books like the Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, things like that. I was never disappointed with anything Mom gave me from the Book Box.
The other wonderful tradition she created was The Book Bag. The Book Bag was always the very best part of Christmas, and was opened last. Mom was a master shopper, and was able to find a bunch of books that were just the perfect thing for each of us. Fairy tales, SF, and fantasy books for me; mysteries and puzzles for G; history and biographies for B.
It became such a cherished part of my childhood that when I had children I continued the tradition (bolstered by books Mom sent for the girls, of course.) Even now, the girls say it's the best part of Christmas, and we always open our Book Bags last. You know if you picked the right things, because everyone goes silent as they delve into their books, and wander off to chairs around the house to settle in and read.
Or, in the case of my cowboy husband, he and A set up a rope-tying practice session with a set of halter rope and a dining room chair, after he got Ashley's Book of Knots in his Book Bag this year. You know you live on a farm when...
I feel my Mom's presence often, but never more so on Christmas morning as everyone is opening their Book Bags. It's a tradition I know my own girls will pass along to their children, and I am already making lists of books to buy for them (in good time, all in good time.)
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year to everyone from us at the farm.