When A Kindle is More Than Just A Kindle
When the news about Amazon’s e-reader first dropped I admit that I was one of the luddites that felt like this was a step in the wrong direction. I believed the tactile experience of books to be a superior one, having fallen in love with so many, and having seen that love demonstrated in the wear of the covers and the age of the pages.
I was living in Chicago post-college, and still lugging around my library books on the bus and train everyday. When I moved to New York, I was still cramming paperbacks and hardcovers alike into my purse for every commute. It was extra weight I didn’t want to carry, but I couldn’t be without something to read, and I wasn’t about to embrace this technology that early (and eventually erroneous) voices declared to be the enemy of the printed word.
But then, in 2010, my dad sent me a kindle for Christmas.
My dad didn’t always give me gifts for Christmas and my birthday. Looking back I can see that this was never malicious or designed to hurt me. He was also the father of a much younger son, who at 11 that year required the kind of parental attention I did not. And with a handful of states between us, there was a certain kind of distance that was hard to overcome, despite all the ways he made me laugh and smile when we did see each other.
But every so often my father would seek to “make up” for the gifts forgotten and give me something big, and something that spoke to my passions. In this case, my father was certain that this beautiful new piece of technology would celebrate my love of reading while also allowing me a lighter bag on my trips around the city.
At first I balked. I did not want to be an enemy to the bookseller! I prized my hours spent meandering through the 66th St. Barnes and Noble (now, depressingly, a clothing store) and the Borders peppered throughout the island (oh, Borders, how I miss thee). Why didn’t my father know that I was repulsed by the idea of a kindle?
Eventually I saw what a boon it was to have a lighter option for travel, and saner voices prevailed about what kind of threat e-readers really were.
“Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” Thank you, Stephen Fry.
The years passed and I appreciated any methodology of consuming books, even coming to prefer audiobooks for my endless train rides. All reading is good reading.
These days I read a lot. More than almost any other period in my life than maybe those rare high school summers where I read book after book deep into the night. I read for my own general pleasure, I read to become a better writer, and I read as a reviewer. Being a reviewer has afforded me the opportunity to read a great number of ARCs in the form of ebooks from publishers, which means my once maligned Kindle has since become a regular staple in my reading habits.
And to some degree, this has made this simple little Kindle a totem of sorts, one that keeps my father alive.
The two year anniversary of my father’s death is approaching.
I don’t need a date on a calendar to reflect on the joys and regrets of my relationship with my father.
I occasionally think about what I might have said differently before I fall asleep at night. I reflect on what it was like to dance with my father at my wedding when I watch my own friends get married. I wonder what advice I might offer to new fathers with daughters of their own out of a desire to somehow repair the flaws in my own history.
But even still, when that calendar date arrives, I still can’t help but miss him a little more.
It’s hard to miss someone in general. It’s hard to miss a parent. And for me, it’s especially hard to miss someone who was not as present in your life as you would have liked them to be.
But then I have my Kindle and I’m reminded of the wonderfully nice thing my father wanted to do for me. I think of the longevity of this gift, and the usefulness of this gift, the way it’s become a weekly, sometimes daily part of my life in the way that few gifts have. He’s still encouraging my reading, even when he’s no longer here to do so. And as a man who spent his last few years often traveling for work, I know he’d appreciate all the fine books I’ve been able to read while sitting in airports.
It’s just a Kindle.
It’s the kind of tablet that sits on nightstands and nestles in bags all across the world.
But through circumstance, it’s so much more. Sometimes the strangest objects are.
And every time I read on it I can’t help but thank my father, and that gratitude feels like something that can chip away at even the deepest regrets.