Wednesday, February 1, 2012

... oh, give me a home...

Last night was a special night for K and me. We finished a chapter book together.


A bit of background: I've written before about just how important reading is to me, and has been since I was a little kid. Some of my first memories are of sitting in our Puunene living room, being read to. Mom in the middle on the couch, with Kim on one side and me on the other (Karol was, I believe, a bit too young at this point). Mom (and Dad) read to us often. I loved being read to, and was impatient to learn to read myself. We didn't have TV at that point, and I can remember both my parents sitting in armchairs in the evening, reading.

(When I consider the logistics of this - the children were still awake and yet they were reading? - it seems improbable. They probably weren't reading much, if my own experience is any indication!)

Anyway, books are good, books are important, books are your friends! (Hi librarian Mom!)

So we've always read to the girls, from early early on. Some of my favorite early memories of time spent with the girls is reading to them as they were swaddled and nestled against me, less than a year old....

And now K is reading herself. And it's an amazing and exciting thing to see.

She's also getting more interested in longer stories, and so we borrowed Little House in the Big Woods from a friend, and started it last week. And she's been loving it. LOVING it! It's taken precedence over Belle Stories, which is saying something. We've done a chapter here, a part of a chapter there.

L is less interested, but we manage to arrange things so that we do L-level books (Where the Wild Things Are, Night Pirates....) and then she either snuggles against me and falls asleep, or M takes her to her bed and lies next to her until she goes to sleep, while K and I read a chapter.

This has been working well, as we've begun letting K stay up a bit later than her sister. Otherwise, K wakes up early, and wakes up L, and everyone has not quite as wonderful a day as they might otherwise have.

So, we are 3 chapters from the end, and K is very excited about the coming chapter because we've looked ahead and seen that a boy gets stung by yellow jackets and is all swollen and gets packed in mud and wrapped in an old sheet. And we don't know what the details are, beyond this, but it's fascinating and compelling and she wants to know what happened!

I've been using Little House as a motivator. If we get done with bath in time.... if you're in jammies and with teeth brushed...., and it's worked well. K is snuggled in against me well before her sister is even up from her bath. And we read a bit, then switch to L's books, then back to Little House after M takes L to bed. And it seems like it's forever before we can start reading again, but then we read some more!

And we finish the chapter, and I look at the clock and it isn't yet quite 7.30p so I tell K we can do one more if she goes to bed right after that and she nods excitedly and snuggles in closer, and I remember what it's like to be captivated by a story and want to keep reading but at the same time not want it to end, and I feel like this is one of those moments when something special is getting transmitted on from one generation to the next. Truly.

We read the chapter, skipping a section on harvesting wheat. (One thing I've learned, reading this with K, is that there's no reason to make her listen to a long passage on how Pa takes care of his gun, or how Ma makes cheese - so we have an agreement that if something is boring, she lets me know, and I skip ahead.) We read about how Ma set a huge meal out for the threshers. (K has several times over the course of the book said "That sounds really good" when there's a description of a meal - pumpkin pie, dried berry pie, wild honey, johnny cake, venison....)

And then there's just one chapter left. And how can I possibly make her go to bed with just one chapter left?!? Simple - I can't. So I don't.

I lean over close to her and whisper, "I do this sometimes. I stay up too late finishing a book. But then the next day I'm tired and I have to remember that I'm tired because I wanted to read. So if you're ok being tired tomorrow, and will behave, we can read this last chapter."

And K nods quickly and adds "Yeah, yeah! And ask Mitzi for the next book!"

So we're co-conspirators, sharing this decision, sharing the import and repercussions of it. Understanding that we're making a choice together. And loving every moment.

We read it. And it's a chapter about how winter is coming, the leaves are changing and the weather getting colder and Pa goes out to shoot a deer to get some fresh meat but comes home without any, and that never happens, but the next evening he takes his girls on his lap and tells them how he'd seen first a huge buck, then a extra-huge bear, and then a doe and a yearling fawn, and how each time he hadn't wanted to shoot them. And the girls say "that's ok, we'll eat bread and butter" and "I'm glad you didn't shoot them." And then Laura and her sister fall asleep with Pa playing his fiddle and Ma knitting a sock next to the fire. And Pa is playing Auld Lang Syne and Laura wants to know what that means and when he tells her it's "the long ago old time" she thinks how "now is now" and that that's good. She's cozy and happy and in the moment.

And I kiss K and take her to bed and tuck her in and kiss her one more time and go downstairs knowing I've just had a very special moment with my oldest daughter, glad now is now.

* a couple of things to note:
  1. I've never read any of the Little House books, so that helps keep me engaged. I'm as surprised by turns of events as K is. Sometimes (it feels) more so than she.
  2. K doesn't seem too terribly thrown by the descriptions of hunting/pig butchering/panther attacking/hide-tanning (spanking). In fact, I've been a bit surprised that she's accepted it as willingly as she has. I'm sure she's processing it, the notion that to eat meat, you have to kill an animal, but she's working it out rather than simply reacting (the exception so far: last night when reading a section on making cheese, when it described that it was necessary to kill a calf to get rennit from it's stomach (K: "What's a calf?" me (knowing she knows, but obviously the context has thrown her off): "A baby cow." K: "Oh, no, that's not right!") - so I skipped a good part of that bit.


Maggie said...

I absolutely loved the Little House books when I was younger! I read every single one and I still have them in a box in my closet. So glad that she likes them too!

Jocelyn said...

I think I read that one too!! And still, she reminds me of Austin. We read most nights from the Magic Tree House series. They're actually pretty good, if Kate likes solving mysteries and magic!!! And I can't tell you how happy it makes me that YOU are the one reading to her!!