I was lost in the Doldrums for weeks (1).
The words turned and the story moved, but only for a few pages at best. I’d come face to face with the wagging tail of seconds and minutes, and I would find myself moving backwards– back towards the moment where Milo and I ever-so accidentally slipped into the colorless world.
I had already learned the flexibility of time, and how easy it was to be caught in its wrinkles (2), but this was my first taste of the experience.
I wasn’t sad like the doldrums. I just needed the time to think of where I was, and where I wanted to be. I needed a lazy, dark place full of bright small quiets.
I had lived lives full of big quiets before.
There was the time, for many lifetimes, where I was a little prince, sitting on a planet too far away for friends (3). Sometimes, I was a forgotten daughter of magic, staring out my window towards the farthest away mountain– the impossible dream (4). And once– at least once– I was a fairy tale princess who only wanted to love and be loved by a dragon (5).
There’s something seductive in the searching for something specific. It’s a warm quiet, and it lulls you to sleep.
Here, you are lonely.
Here, you are still.
Here, you are waiting.
It is a familiar place, and a welcoming one, but eventually I moved on– and the glorious adventures that awaited me could have never been foretold.
I began searching for the frightfully wondrous, incredibly unspecific, unexpected.
I found it, too– in so many places.
It was in the clothes hoarded in a violin case (6), and the strength of a high-borne girl on the high seas (7). It was in the victory in the song of a Lioness (8), and the stories of a girl who came back to her home as a child of Mother India. It was the simple words weaved into a clever spider’s web (10).
Those were beautiful things, but I found ugly ones, too.
I saw humans turned into horrible nightmares (11), and trees that gave their lives for us, willingly and unwillingly (12, 13). I saw unloved children (14), and how not even youth was protected from the cruel grip of death (15). I was told secrets that were weighed down with several lifetimes of grief (16).
I retreated when I needed to. I took comfort in the places I knew best, in the lives I sensed had extra comfort to give. They were made of words, much like those who stabbed or frightened me– but these were the type that soothed.
These words were sun-kissed rocks where a frog and a toad called me a friend. (17) They were the slow drawl of a boy with a streak of mischief wider than the Mississippi river. (18) These words were the notes of a harmonica, stretching the fierce strength of big sisters into a song that every little brother already knows (19).
In my readings, in my journeys– in my lifetimes— I laughed so hard that I would roll off my couch. I cried so softly that I didn’t even notice. I mourned so deeply that I left plates of food unfinished and loved so greatly that smiles would rise from my heart without notice.
Curled up one night, on my mother’s lap, she asked me to tell her a story of the people I’ve been, so she might guess what I would be when I was too grown up to sit on her lap.
I told her about the time I was a little girl, in a prairie (20), and the Glad game (21), and the pranks that were born of my great big brain (22). I told her about the good day when I was king of the Wild things (23), and the horrible, no good, very bad days, too (24). I told her about my secret treasures, from my precious purple crayon (25) to my old carpet-bag (26). I told her about all the transport I used to reach my dreams– the motorcycle I rode when I was as small as a mouse (27), and the extraordinary submarine I took on adventures (28), and the boxcar where I built a home (29). I told her about the places I had to leave behind, and the friends who left me.
I looked up to ask her if she could ever possibly understand, and she was crying. In that moment, I could tell that my mother had lived all those same lifetimes, and perhaps even more.
I looked into her eyes and remembered the parts she played in my stories– the laughing Good Witch (30), the loving Christopher Robin (31), and the over-protective Wendy (32), to name a few. I wondered how different my stories were when she was the hero, and if she saw Grandpa in Aslan’s wise eyes too– or if maybe she saw her own grandpa (33). I wondered if any stories had buried so deeply into her heart that she never stopped living their reality.
I asked her that last thought, and she put aside the question of what I would be when I grew up because it could wait.
Instead, she picked out a book from her own shelf, and we focused on the rather splendid velveteen rabbit (34) that I would be for about 40 pages worth of a lifetime.
The very same rabbit that was once part of my mother, and now lasts for always inside her heart.
Just like me.
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
- The Farthest Away Mountain by Lynne Reid Banks
- Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
- The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
- Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
- A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
- Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
- James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
- Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
- Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
- Yolanda’s Genius by Carol Fenner
- Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
- The Great Brain by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
- Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
- Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore
- The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
- The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
- Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
- Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
- Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
- The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Post inspired by Children’s Lit Week at TipsyLit.
Was reading an important part of your childhood, too?