The Incredible Reality of Words

clockI 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.

littleprinceHere, 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.

poohI 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.

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  1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  3. The Little Prince by  Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  4. The Farthest Away Mountain by Lynne Reid Banks
  5. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
  6. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
  7. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
  8. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
  9. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  10. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  11. Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine
  12. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  13. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  14. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  15. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  16. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
  17. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
  18. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  19. Yolanda’s Genius by Carol Fenner
  20. Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  21. Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
  22. The Great Brain by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  23. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  24. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  25. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
  26. Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
  27. The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
  28. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore
  29. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  30. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  31. Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
  32. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  33. Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  34. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Post inspired by Children’s Lit Week at TipsyLit.
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Was reading an important part of your childhood, too?

62 Comments

    1. Thank you! 🙂 Sorting the notations took forever… I never realized how many children’s authors use initials in their name.

      I’m the same with books. Can’t help but love them!

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  1. Sadly, I was not a reader. So many of thosebooks I haven’t read, but I loved this post and how you wrote it. Maybe there’s time for me to read them still. 😉

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    1. 🙂 There’s always time for more reading. At the very least, I suggest The Phantom Tollbooth and The Little Prince. Ooh, and watch the movie for A Little Princess even if you do read the book– because the movie is brilliant. If I keep typing, I’ll add every single other book mentioned to this list, so I’ll stop. 😉

      The point is, kids lit is always there for us, no matter our age. I say it’s worth the time! 🙂

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  2. Love the way you’ve woven these classics into your delightful post – books are such a big part of the fabric of life: most of your titles sat on our shelves well-loved for many years, a few didn’t live up to expectations and one had to be hidden away for it was just too much to bear…

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    1. “books are such a big part of the fabric of life” – so very true. I loved all these books for different reasons. When someone asks me if I recommend the book… well, I’ll hem and haw because I didn’t necessarily love them all for the writing. I loved them for the part they played in my life… as you say, they built the fabric of my life! 🙂 Thanks for getting it! 😀

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  3. Wonderfully done! I have been thinking about The Little Prince for a while now – bouncing around the noggin’ – and this here is now pushed me forth to purchasing and re-reading. I know that I will get something from it…a new perspective on things. My uncle used to bring it over and read it to me – it’s one of the strongest memories I have of him…and The Little Prince is indelibly marked on me for many reasons. One thing now to share with my young boys.

    Thanks for this – fantastic stuff 🙂

    Paul

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    1. Thank you, Paul! My dad used to read The Little Prince to me… in French. 🙂 It was many years before I read the English version… and finally understood what it was all about. 🙂 Books are fabulous for that very reason. Sometimes, they give us new characters to connect to– and sometimes they help us connect to those around us.

      Your boys are lucky to have a reader for a father! 😀

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  4. I recognized a good deal of the references and started smiling when I ran through the list of titles — most of those books played an important role in my chlidhood, albeit for different reasons. I read every chance I could, and when my family didn’t have enough money to buy me books, I read the books at my church, at the public library, at my friends’ houses… “Voracious reader” was a common phrase used to describe me, haha. 🙂
    I really want to compliment you on yet another heart-tugging, perspective-changing, nostalgia-inducing post, but I can’t think of anything I haven’t already said other than “good job”, but that doesn’t nearly do it justice. It’s kind of frustrating, and I really hope you understand what I’m getting at, haha.

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    1. I was also a voracious reader! 🙂 Still am, actually. Most of my books were from the library, though all the “walls” in my bedroom were actually just shelves filled with books. With 6 kids, all of which turned out to be readers– there was no way my parents could keep up without libraries to help them out. 🙂

      🙂 Thank you for your compliment, E. I’m glad my words connected us some more… *hugs*

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  5. I need to read The Little Prince, I really do. But I get most of your other references. The Great Brain, Pollyanna, Milo….those were classics. 🙂

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    1. There’s a pop up book for The Little Prince that might intrigue you enough to read the full version, 😀 Thank you, Michael– so glad to know we enjoyed many of the same lifetimes!

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  6. I think I’ve read nearly every book you mentioned and seeing the words left a tight feeling in my chest. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Rara…it’s nice to think of old friends.

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  7. This post was like looking in the pockets of my memory and finding all those wonderful special pebbles I’ve collected over the years. Now I get to share them again with my children. Thank you for polishing them for me.

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  8. These are the books I read, then read to my son and my granddaughter. Mostly, still have in the bookcases. To these I would add the ones that I loved best: The Black Stallion (series), Lad A Dog (series), and in adolescence. the one that most shaped the me that I grew up to be, Anne Golan’s Angelique series. It’s still in progress by her 96 years old author. Great list! And wonderful evocative post.

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  9. Just a suggestion: If you have not read Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, I think you would love it. She is a detective that protects books in the worlds of fiction. Witty, funny, and well … sort of you-ish.

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  10. This is a fantastic post. Fan-tas-TIC.
    I discovered the town library when I was seven or eight. When I saw the stacks of books, I uttered, ‘Wow,’ and the librarian laughed out loud (you were supposed to be quiet in libraries then). My mouth watered and I couldn’t wait to get home with the three books I was allowed to borrow. Everyday I am surrounded by books. I walk past and must stoke their spines. I never feel alone or lonely. 😀 How can I with all those lives, characters and stories inside to discover?

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    1. Thank you, Tess. 🙂 At my first library, I was allowed to check out 7 books and I still remember how fabulous it was. 😀 Like taking home hundreds of new friends. 🙂

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  11. BIG. HEART. BUMP.

    I knew what this was, the minute I read “wrinkle.” But so majestically executed, and including so many of my childhood friends. Yes, books were my friends growing up, my first love, which is why I wrote my Valentine’s post to them.

    No one spins magic like you do, Rara. No one.

    P.S. Little Dude wants you to know he just rocked your Free Rice team and earned over 1000 points. He did science and math.

    love,
    S

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    1. 🙂 Thank you, Samara! In this case, the magic was entirely built in from the books of my childhood. 😀

      Little Dude is my hero!! I bought him a postcard, I just need to remember to send it. 🙂

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    1. 🙂 Thank you! It’s amazing how many shared experiences can be built into mere references to these books… I’m so glad to share a memory with you!

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  12. It was like a fun book quiz- I loved it. And since I’ve read almost all of them I think I’d better find the few I haven’t read yet- like A Little Princess- how have I not read that- I think my girls and I will have to investigate!

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    1. 😀 A Little Princess is fantastic, written very much like The Secret Garden though– so it can be dense writing. I’d suggest the movie, though. It’s darker because the story isn’t exactly a happy one until the very end– but it has one of my favorite re-enactments of India’s folklore that I’ve ever seen. Of course, Indian folkmore is all monstery too– so you’ll have to use a judgement call on that recommendation when it comes to the girls. 🙂

      Yay for having read almost all of these! There were so many more I wanted to include. 🙂

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      1. I loved the secret garden as a kid. I read it over and over, but every time when I got to the part about the boy talking about “magic” I’d go all blah, blah, blah in my head, never liked that part. But I loved the rest of it!

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  13. That was awesome; I have no other word for it.
    Books are still an important part of my life, though now there are several non-fiction ones on my reading list.

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  14. Rara, I is kinda neat, you write I smile. You have such a wonderful way of combining words, thoughts, and passages. Your stories are full of life, thank you very much. Bill

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  15. I love so many of these books, but what I love most is your mother’s wisdom to ask you for your story. Then to share her heart with you through the Velveteen Rabbit. I dream about being such an amazing parent. I love you MommaSaur. {{{Hugs}}} kozo

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