Some day when Col and Rose are grown, they’ll look back on their childhoods and see their daddy handing them arrows to shoot at rotting stumps.
Dan will star in their memories as the man who taught them to chop firewood and to fish, who orchestrated wrestling matches and three-person soccer games, who opened stuck jars and always had the right tool to fix whatever was broken.
And then, they’ll remember their mother: reclined on our singular, smudged, long-suffering couch, their kid-bodies piled into my soft edges, me reading to them.
There is always a book we’re reading, the three of us. We read to connect, to relax, to tame the wild chaos that bubbles up daily. We read to learn, to travel (without leaving the couch), to numb our hot mental wiring and to better examine our own lives. Reading is my favorite thing to do after, well, breathing (sorry, honey, that’s No. 3).
The three of us are our own tiny, nepotistic book club, wondering, collectively, how the Baudelaire orphans will break their cycle of unfortunate events; or commiserating together that there will be no sequel to Huck Finn, ever. (Which was an interesting bedtime book, what with Huck’s perennially drunk dad and the school beatings from teachers.) We’re all fierce Roald Dahl groupies; we’ve written fan mail to local writer Will Hobbs, and the original Winnie the Pooh stories, written almost 100 years ago, make us quake with laughter.
When the kids – tucked into their beds – rise up and protest the closing of a book (“One more chapter!” they chant like concert-goers demanding an encore), I am likely to concede. Just yesterday when Rose asked how blind people get their sight back, Col sighed and said, “They don’t. Remember Mary?” And we instantly knew he was referring to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s sister, who had perfect sight in Little House in the Big Woods, and horrifyingly, had lost it by On the Shores of Silver Lake.
I don’t read the kids books that I don’t enjoy myself, because there is so much truly excellent children’s literature. E.B. White (author of Charlotte’s Web and more), said, “All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love this world.” Which is exactly how we all felt by the end of the Harry Potter series, that we loved this world and all its possibilities just a little more deeply.
We recently finished The Grapes of Wrath, which was the kids’ first experience of a non-happy ending (over which they almost rioted), which is a poignant and sad manifestation of their own growing up. (We did, however, get to follow the 544 pages with a discussion on banned books while conducting our own three-person rally celebrating the spirit of the people over the machine of big corporations).
All of our books come from the Durango Public Library. I can chronicle my parenting life through that building, from the days of crossing my fingers, germ-wise, while the kids gummed board books, to today, my 11-year-old beelining for the 5-pound, nonfiction aviation books upstairs. The library is our second home, its shelves containing the most compelling magic outside of Hogwarts. Actually, a building full of free, constantly rotating books is the most supreme wizardry I can imagine.
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.