My Grandmother was meditating before it was cool.
I spent a lot of my childhood at my Grandmother’s house. It was as fun as any Grandmother’s place — there were trees to climb, neighbor kids to battle in street football, and sidewalks for optimal Big Wheel riding with my cousins.
And of course, there were rules. Many of them were created to protect furniture and family heirlooms from the destructive power of small, uncoordinated children who cared nothing for front room furniture and the “good plates” in the china cabinet. Those kinds of rules were eased as we got older and more respectful of the fact that not everything in the front room can be turned into a fort, or mass transit for my G.I. Joe. I mean, it COULD, but apparently the practice is frowned upon in grown-up circles.
There was always one rule that stood firm, a timeless directive that was followed by young and old alike: Quiet Time
Strategically placed after “All My Children” and before Oprah, Quiet Time was an uninterrupted two-hour block of silence. The TV went off, and children were required to either go outside and play, take a nap, or read quietly. These terms were non-negotiable; any violation would be met with her warning call of “Hush that mouth up!” from any corner of the house. If you knew what was good for you, you happily took the note.
While Grandmother moved around the house doing whatever Grandmothers did, I got lost in stories. I used Quiet Time to devour all the great works from the masters, like Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and Thomas Rockwell. I studied the biographies of people like Nat Turner and Guion Bluford. I read the Encyclopedia Brown serials and the actual encyclopedia. I followed the flowcharts of medical diagnostic books like they were adventure tales, cultivating my charming dash of hypochondria in a pre WebMD world. I was a sponge, soaking up whatever I could so that I could wring out facts in front of adults and impress them.
And when I wasn’t reading, during Quiet Time, I was thinking. By age 9, I realized that imagining the couch as a race car was nowhere near as fun —or productive — as drawing up plans to turn the couch into a real car. Among my many other…