I read fiction. I read biographies and autobiographies. I read history. I read science. I read for learning. I read for pleasure. I read for enlightenment.
I read to my children.
It is where I am in life, still holding on to every moment of mothering I can, including bedtime story time, knowing that one day soon one of my double-digit children is going to realize that cuddling with Mom at the close of the day is no longer cool. Propped on pillows, cuddled under covers we travel the world, and out of it, fifteen to twenty pages at a time. Mount Olympus, Treasure Island, England, Japan, America. Ancient times and modern. Make believe and real. We each take turns choosing a book and sharing an adventure together.
I remember my father doing the same, although by the time I was my children’s present age, this ritual had ended. Tucked in close, under a canopy, in a room papered with fantastic doll houses, I listened to the melodic drawl of my father’s old southern dialect reading picture books about wild things, talking rabbits and monkeys counting stars. It was enchanting, a soothing balm. Body tired, eyes heavy, consciousness floating between reality and dream, his words droned, the comfort settled.
Bed-time story time is a memory worthy of re-creating until time ticks it out, until it is no longer routine, no longer habit, no longer expected, no longer knowingly missed. Soon my children will depart my bed to begin their own night-time routines, but while and for as long as it lasts, it was, is and forever will be my prelude to sweet dreams.
* * *
Last week, when it was my turn to choose, I chose Henry Winterfeld’s 1956 mystery Detectives in Togas. Mostly, it was my pick because it had just arrived in the mail, a discarded treasure from the Adriance Memorial Library in Poughkeepsie, New York. Also, because the children are studying the history of Ancient Rome, and I thought it would be informative and perhaps fun to read a book set in that period.
The book features seven young classmates under the tutelage of a Greek professor that they not-so-lovingly call Xantippus after Xanthippe, the nagging wife of Socrates. After one of the students is expelled for etching Caius is a dumbbell on his tablet, a series of quick-step actions occur–an evening assault on Xantippus and the defamation of the Temple of Minerva– that seem to also have been committed by the same expelled student. In order to clear his name and keep him from a terrible fate, the boys race to figure out who actually committed the crime.
Since I also like to have a reference book or other resource handy when reading fiction, I chose David Macaulay’s 1974 pen-and-ink illustrated book City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction to accompany “Detectives”. It is a beautifully illustrated book of the planning and construction of a typical, albeit fictionalized, Roman city. So when the boys are traipsing around Rome trying to figure out whodunit, we will be able to get a better visual understanding of the city layout and buildings in which the story unfolds.
The boy child chooses next. I wonder what adventure awaits…