I don't know about you, but I need a vacation after Christmas. I
mean a real vacation -- one where you don't go anywhere or do much of
anything. Just one solid week of sleeping late, drinking coffee, reading the
newspapers and not even thinking about getting out of your bathrobe until
it's time for lunch.
A few years ago, I decided to close my office for the week
between Christmas and New Year's. It started off as a way to make up for not
being able to give everyone a raise during a tough year, but it's become
permanent. Not much happens in Washington that week anyway, and I need the
week to recuperate from the shopping, cooking, entertaining and general
insanity of the holidays.
Each year, I imagine that I will do something special that week,
like take up watercolors or begin research on the great historical novel I
plan to write someday. One year, my husband even bought me a fine set of
watercolors, brushes and paper for Christmas in anticipation of my new
hobby. I managed to paint two pictures: one, a scene of rolling hills from
my back deck; and the other, a potted plant. My husband pronounced the
bucolic landscape a masterpiece and had it framed, while ignoring the truly
dreadful potted plant. That kind of blind enthusiasm coupled with tact is
why we've managed to stay happily married for going on 36 years. But the
watercolors have remained in their tubes, untouched, ever since.
I did manage to make it to a couple of museums during my time
off one year, however. I saw an Edward Hopper exhibit and paid a long visit
to the permanent collection at the National Gallery of Art. Unfortunately, a
whole lot of other people had the same idea, and I came home as frazzled and
exhausted as if I'd spent the day at the mall.
This year, I'm going to read some books. Not that I don't read
books during the rest of the year, but I have rules for reading during the
work week. Since I work primarily at home, I long ago decided I could not
read for pleasure between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., otherwise I would
never get any work done. The only exceptions were newspapers or work-related
books that I might use in a column or discuss on TV. I could justify reading
Bill Sammon's "Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism From Inside the Bush
White House" or even Al and Tipper Gore's "Joined at the Heart," though the
latter might best be reserved for some Lenten week when I could earn time
off in Purgatory for the suffering entailed. But I couldn't read David
McCullough's "John Adams" or Sandra Cisneros' "Caramello," except after
hours -- unless, that is, I happened to be on an airplane.
Flying is like being held prisoner, so I don't feel guilty about
reading for pleasure when I'm in the air. There are other self-imposed
constraints on my flight-time reading, however. Since I am terribly phobic
about flying and think the plane may simply fall to the earth at any minute,
I have to make sure whatever I read is worthy of my last few minutes of
life. I'd hate to waste them on David Baldacci or John Grisham. Instead, I
bring along classics, just in case. I've managed to read almost all of
Dickens' novels that way, as well as a handful of Trollop and George Eliot.
So this week I'm in search of the perfect book to indulge myself
as I lazily stretch out on my couch in front of the fireplace. I prefer
novels, but a really well-written biography or history would do. It doesn't
have to be "Crime and Punishment" or "The Decline and Fall of the Roman
Empire," but it should be worth spending my only week of pure relaxation
reading. Any suggestions?