Monday, November 2, 2015

Do I Hope My Kids Dance? Sure. But I Hope They Do This A Lot More

I still remember the Polaroid of the first book my brother ever borrowed from our small town public library.  It was a closeup, not of him holding the book, but of the book alone on our royal blue shag carpet.  The photo was a celebration.  It was a celebration not just of my big brother, my mother's first child, finally old enough to read.  It was a celebration of the book itself.  Of the freedom the words on paper brought with them.  Or at least, that's how I remember it.

Three years his junior, I wasn't quite ready for my own library card.  Surprisingly, I don't remember the photo of my first borrowed book (although I am sure my mother took one, as she was incredibly fair in that way).  I do, however, remember aspiring to read on my own.

Before I knew it I was at a prestigious preparatory school studying Shakespeare, Orwell, Homer's Odyssey and likely a lot of CliffsNotes.  (By the way, thanks Cliff.  You are the man.)  Required reading in college was much of the same, with some Plato and Aristotle tossed in for good measure.  Now days away from my (eek) 40th birthday, most of those books bring only one word to mind.


Several years ago I set out to make my first New Year's Resolution in forever.  I skipped right over exercising regularly, eating healthily and cutting Diet Coke out of my daily routine as that'd merely be setting myself up for failure.  Then I remembered my brother's book.  I remembered the mystery, the power, the privilege sitting within his reach.  More importantly, I remembered the longing to make those things own.

In that moment I made a resolution to read more for pleasure.  I didn't set a specific goal.  Let's face it... Reading one book for pleasure that year would have been more than I'd read in years past.  So with even one novel in hand, success was literally at my fingertips.  I am unsure how many books I read that year, but it was a lot.

As a busy mother of two with an unpredictable work schedule and tendency to fill whatever openings do exist in my schedule with anything to help satiate an unhealthy desire to be SuperWoman, little time is left to read.  But the result is more grand than ever I expected.

E-Reader phobic, I've accrued quite the pile of novels on my nightstand.  In our hurry-up-and-wait society, I find carrying a book in my purse or on the passenger seat of my car as the perfect remedy.  How often do I read in those circumstances?  Almost never.  But the intent is there.  The dream.

Still, the most beautiful return on that resolution I have yet to mention.

My youngest daughter is a creature of habit, more set in her ways than you can imagine.  (Yes, Mom. I know.  Some apples don't fall far from the tree.)  But bedtime can be an exceptionally difficult time for her, as everything has to go just right.  Now a kindergartner, only two months into her school year, I am proud to say she is a full-fledged reader.  Like any younger sibling, she wants to follow in her sister's bigger footsteps.  So for the last several weeks, bedtime has consisted of her reading me a story before I'd do for her as I've done since she was an infant.  Then last week, something changed.

I was frazzled at her bedtime, even more so than usual.  I told her to start reading alone and that I'd be there shortly.  Several times I peeked around the corner to her bottom bunk and heard her voice, a sound I'd bottle up and save forever if I could, reading page after page.  With her happy, I took advantage of a few extra moments to do dishes, prepare lunches or something else insignificant.  When finally I went to read to her, I was too late.

Her flashlight, off.  Her ZippySack kitty blanket, pulled up.  Her book, closed beside her.  For the first time in 5 years and 7 months, my baby had read herself to sleep.  And what did I do?

I cried like a baby.

My mother once gave me a book filled with the lyrics of Lee Ann Womack's song, "I Hope You Dance".  For any mother, they all ring to true.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder...
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens...
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean...
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance...

I hope these and so many other things for my two truly amazing daughters.  And sure, even if they inherit their father's sense of rhythm, I hope they dance.  But way more importantly, I hope they read.