24 June 2009

Stories for boys (and girls)

The case of lost time.

Probably best not to go there, because there is just so much there. And it's all bad.

So, we'll just start with today. Because today is the first day of the rest of your life, don't you know?

Were it was so easy, but anyway.

Today.

Today, I was supposed to go to the grocery and to the bank. Soon, the school will be threatening me with something if I don't pay next year's tuition bill. It's not that I can't pay next year's tuition bill, but it's complicated. And it has to do with there. And no stamps. And possibly, terror.

Anyway.

I was up early for the first time in what seems forever, early being 7:30 a.m.

(For the record, if this was the mild edition, I do not want the bad version. EVER.)

So, I was able to get on the exercise bike pretty early, because today is Wednesday, which is an exercise bike day.

I pedaled merrily for 70 minutes.

Okay, so not merrily. But I pedaled.

Then it was 11 and I hadn't eaten breakfast, so I made an egg sandwich with avocado, figuring it would be lunch, too.

Then the daughter started moaning about the state of her closet again. It's a disaster. To be fair, I've shoved a lot in there for storage over the years because she was small and didn't have much when we moved into the house eleven years ago. However, I have a mother-in-law who likes to shop and who is constantly buying them stuff, so there were all kinds of things she's given them shoved in there too.

A couple of months ago, I made the decision to downsize. To be fair, we haven't got that much to begin with--we are, in fact, the only family I know who only has one TV--but stuff creeps in the door, and sometimes it's hard to shift it. Someone finds me a fabulous set of dishes, you know, even though I already have four sets of dishes, or my mother gets a box of my grandmother's costume jewelry--all of it broken--and promptly sends it off to me. No, I don't know why either.

I tend not to be overly sentimental, so there are few things saved from the kids babyhood: I have their first pairs of shoes, the outfits they wore home from the hospital, personalized baby blankets, favorite toys that survived.

And books.

I've written so many times that we are a family of readers. We have more books than the local library, probably (in California, that's not actually much of a feat). And I have a hard time parting with books, so I try to make sure they get good homes when they leave my house, whether I pass them on to someone I think would enjoy them or donate them to the library.

I had few books when I was a child--they were an unaffordable luxury, so I spent hours at the library--and the ones I did have I treasured. When I left for college, I carefully packed them all away. My mother told me they were destroyed in the flood of 1983, but my sister later let on that she'd given them away

That hurt.

As I could afford to, I reconstructed what I could of my childhood book collection. A surprising number of books had gone out of print, but eventually I was able to track some of them down through used book dealers. And in some cases, though I could remember the illustrations and could quote some stories verbatim, I couldn't come up with exact titles or authors. Still, by the time my children came along, I had the core of the my childhood book collection.

If you've read here long, you are familiar with my dislike of shopping. But I must confess, I buy books like there is no tomorrow.

I started reading to the kids when they were very small. Reading should be a habit, and to my mind, two months old was not too young to begin that habit. And they seemed well content with the whole process, which started with books like Moo Baa La La La and Goodnight Moon.

It became such a habit that eventually, the spouse would read to one child at bedtime and I would read to the other. Story books became chapter books, and finally, when Harry Potter arrived, I would read aloud to the assembled company every night. Everyone liked that arrangement because I do voices.

Then we ran out of Potter and the son moved on to American Gods and High Fidelity, while the daughter took on The #1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

As they grew, I packed away the favorite books so that they will have them for their own children some day. There were a lot of favorite books. To the tune of five boxes worth. Large boxes.

And they were all in the daughter's closet.

Today, she and I opened all the boxes. We dispensed with various and sundry odd things that were lying about, cooed over tiny shoes, wondered yet again what we should do with the Russian stuffed bear that was given to the son so long ago, and then we tackled the books.

We created Keep and Give Away piles.

We laughed and exclaimed over what came out of the boxes.

"The Monster at the End of the Book," I waved the slender volume at the daughter.

"OH! Give me that! I haven't seen that in SO long!" she cried.

(I first read that book to my youngest sister a very, very long time ago. It was one of her favorite books, as it was the daughter's. Some of these books I can recite by heart).

The son, alerted by all our noise that something good was happening, appeared in the door of the daughter's bedroom and threw himself into the fray. Before long he and the daughter were competing over who was going to read the next book aloud.

"I'm reading Stone Soup!" the daughter yelled.

"No, I'm going to read I Am a Bunny," the son hollered back.

"'Non non non, Eloise!'" read the daughter.

"'Cats here, cats there, cats and kittens everywhere!'" read the son.

And so, they read to each other.

"Where's Tuesday?" asked the son. "Where's Barnyard Dance?"

"Circle Dogs!" the daughter crowed with delight. "Hey, don't put that in the box yet."

When all was said and done, we were down to three large boxes of books. The other two went out to the driveway, and I sent out an email to the neighborhood this afternoon: "Free kids' books."

The boxes were largely empty by evening.

Go listen to some good music: "Stories for Boys" from the album Boy by U2.

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