O is very particular about his books. He will love one book for weeks, then without any warning, switch allegiance faster than Hugh Hefner switches his “girlfriends”. He loves them and leaves them, this boy, without a backward glance. He’s a bit of a book slut. His first love, Is Your Mama a Llama? still sits on his shelf, its board pages softened by fingertips and the early baby days when it took many readings to get him to settle into sleep. I look wistfully at this book, it’s cover so familiar and lovely. Sometimes I read it to him and sometimes he will indulge me, with a half smile that lets me know that he’s humoring me. Most times he pushes it away impatiently, eager for his new love, one that is shiny and exciting. He is very specific about his favorite books and I never know when he will declare himself back on the market.
The past few nights, he has picked Goodnight Moon. I’ve tried to read him Goodnight Moon before. It’s a classic, of course, but we also got about five copies, so I feel this need to get some use out of at least one. He’s never been interested before, but lately, he pushes aside his most recent favorite, The Night Night Book, for Good Night Moon. He settles quietly in my lap, leans his head against my shoulder and I put my face into his head and breathe in deeply. He smells like O and no one else. With one hand, he points to his favorite objects as I say good night to them. The other hand is wrapped around the tail of his favorite blue dog, and he systematically rubs the tail across his face, sniffing it, or sometimes sticks it in his ear. Occasionally, if he is feeling super affectionate, he will turn and offer me a sniff of his dog’s tail, the ultimate gift from O. It is moments like these that I am so aware of how fleeting time is, that one day he will be sitting across from me at the dinner table, a 10 year old, a teen-ager, a college man, a married man. And I will marvel that this man used to sit in my lap, that he used to be small and warm and fit with me perfectly.
And as I read Good Night Moon I think, I would like to live in this great green room. If you haven’t read it lately, take a peek. The little bunny rabbit is tucked into this cozy bed in the type of room that used to be called a “nursery”, where children slept and played and were sent when they were meant to not be seen or heard. There is a fireplace with a fire, and through the windows are thousands of stars in the midnight blue sky. The only light comes from the fire and the stars and the moon. A grandmother rabbit sits on the other side of the room, rocking and knitting and watching over the boy bunny. There are kittens napping, and a balloon hovering, and a toy house silent and waiting for tomorrow. It is a perfect room to grow up in and you can imagine hours and hours of playtime here. Do you remember what it was like to be a kid, wrapped in a cozy bed, your grandmother watching over you? Do you remember what it felt like to be so safe and so loved, that the only things in your room were beautiful and magical and yours? When the world outside hadn’t entrenched into your little haven of comfort yet.
My Starbucks barista and I had a bit of a philosophical discussion about this very thing this morning. He said that we should take a lesson from our kids and live like them, realizing what is actually worth worrying about and what is okay to shrug off and leave behind. I said, true, but the reason that kids can live like that is because they have us to make sure they feel safe and protected, to make sure rent is paid and food is on the table and the tax man doesn’t come and take away their great green rooms. And he said that’s real talk, girl. That’s some real talk right there.
It is a real purpose, I think, of parents. To create a safe world, to shield them from the drudgery and stress and pain of the outside world, so that they can focus on the business of growing up and discovering themselves and what they love without worrying about the business of the real world. They will worry about the business of the real world soon enough.
I am trying to slow down and cherish the reading of this book, because I know before too long, O will leave the great green room. He will insist on reading The Hungry Caterpillar or Ulysses or Like Water For Chocolate. And it will be another memory, a good memory, but it will also be one step closer to the day when he gets off my lap for good.
Good night O in your great blue room. No matter what the world throws at you, I hope you always have sweet dreams.
O’s List of the Best Good-Night Books (So Far)