I remember my father’s 50th birthday, when I called him from a phone booth at a gas station near a field in the south of France to send my wishes. In Toronto, it was 11:30 p.m. on Friday and my parents and grandmother were still in the midst of a quiet celebration at home, preparing to retire for the night after a long workweek. In Provence, where Mr. Wanderlust and I were enjoying our honeymoon, it was 5:30 on a crisp Saturday morning and the first yawning light of the sun started to appear. We were on our way to the meeting spot from which ‘our’ hot air balloon was to be launched. Alas, the Mistral was too fierce that day and the flight never took place. Instead, we had breakfast in Apt at a café table in the town’s square, then anxiously squeezed our way through the uncomfortably tight crowds of market shoppers snaking through the narrow cobblestone streets lined with vendors.
I also remember my father’s 40th birthday, during our first summer in Canada. His friends had arrived cheerfully unannounced with snacks and cold beer to enjoy while lounging on the balcony in the heat of the afternoon. Likewise, I remember his birthday dinners from my childhood, when my parents’ friends would arrive at our apartment and greet my father at the door with hugs, exclaiming how long it had been since they last saw each other. Then, a few of the guests would turn to me, marvel at how I’ve grown, and one man, Papa’s friend, presented me with a Mickey Mouse pencil. I beamed in delight as I realized that someone must have told him that my birthday is the day after Papa’s.
Perhaps I remember my father’s celebrations so vividly because they have always felt like my own, with our birthdays so close together. I suppose I stole my dad’s spotlight, made him share it with me, but in truth, I loved the special treat of a joined celebration. As a little girl, I was proud to walk beside him, sheltered by his tall shadow as we made our way home together after school. Our lives are different now, and my 60-year-old Papa is only a few inches taller when we stand side-by-side (see the photo above from my wedding day, 10 years ago). I continue to delight in (almost) sharing a birthday with him and am humbled today by the passing of time. Happy 60th, Papa!
Mr. Wanderlust and I have been knee-deep in home renovations. Do you want to know my secret to staying focused and maintaining a calm demeanor while spending the weekends painting the walls of our house? Audiobooks! You might be thinking, Isn’t it a distraction to listen to audiobooks while painting? It’s not very mindful, is it? Perhaps not, but given that I am not a big fan of renovations (see: I strongly dislike them), I give myself the proverbial pat on the back if I can stay fully focused on painting the walls for 15 minutes. I also sometimes enjoy listening to audiobooks while out for a morning walk, but that depends on my mood. Most mornings call for quiet and calm, with my soundtrack consisting of the chirping of the birds, the whispers of my deep breathing, and the soft landing of the soles of my shoes on the pavement. My approach to audiobooks is different from my approach to reading, but that’s a subject for a different post. In the meantime, I will share with you a few recently discovered favourites:
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (or the audiobook)
In the recent years, I have become a fan of fiction set in WWII. The Nightingale was recommended to readers who liked Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, and that was my motive for choosing this book. I enjoyed the excellent narration of Polly Stone, whose French and German accents and pronunciation, and dramatic vocal changes, were very effective. I liked this book so much that I now have the hardcover or paperback version on my wishlist. This was the first book by Kristin Hannah to which I listened, and I long to read her words for myself, to enjoy her wonderful storytelling in thorough detail.
The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman (or the audiobook)
The Light Between Oceans is beautifully written, with a slow-and-steady narrative that effectively reflects the pace of the life of Tom and Isabel Sherbourne on an isolated island. Unfortunately, I was not impressed with the narration by Noah Taylor, though I do admire his acting work. Despite that, I was riveted by the turbulent story of Tom and Isabel through their loss, heartbreak, and lessons in love and faith.
The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty (or the audiobook)
I was reluctant to pick up The Husband’s Secret because I generally am not a fan of chick lit. However, after reading a recommendation from Modern Mrs. Darcy, whose opinion I hold in high esteem, I decided to pick it up. I was impressed not only by the story itself and the excellent character development, but also by the narration by Caroline Lee. Moriarty’s storytelling reminds me somewhat of the style made popular by Maeve Binchy, in which the lives of many individual characters in one community become intertwined, creating a cohesive picture with a poignant message of friendship: We are never alone, though often lonely. Unlike Binchy, Moriarty’s books address heavier issues with a lightness that keeps the reader turning pages.
What have you been reading or listening to lately? Please leave a comment below.