Several women that I know have had babies this Spring and as I’ve bought tiny little sets of pretty clothes for the new mamas, I’ve added a book from my vast collection of children’s books to their gifts. This has been a way to share some lovely stories as well as a way to thin my collection, which fills two enormous plastic bins and is far more than I can use when my grandma days arrive (several years from now, if you’re reading this, JT!). It's also been a treat to look through these familiar books.
Reading is one of my greatest pleasures in life. So it should be no surprise that as a mama, reading books to a small child was one of my great joys. I read to JT every night for years, reading books until he drifted off to sleep. I stopped when I could be sure that he would read to himself at night. The stories that we read, especially those that we read over and over, served as the very foundation of both his world and mine.
As he got older, I read to him to slow the evening into sleep and to set him up for a lifetime of imagination. When I look book at all of those books, I see a philosophy of life coming in to view. The stories we loved the most were the books that valued unconditional love and taking pleasure in the natural world. They celebrated shared laughter and joy in the every day. Some of them served as mantras for the living of the rest of our lives, as did a lovely book called Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go to Sleep.
In this story, a big brother bunny named Willoughby settles his little sister Willa to sleep by reminding her of the happy things she will find when she wakes up in the morning. Willa, eager to stay awake, responds to each happy thing (her chicken slippers, her sailor suit, her breakfast, and her toys) by saying, “That’s happy. What else?”
Toddler JT loved this book, with its sweet pictures and gentle reminder that there was happiness to be found in the every day things and practices that made up our lives. Saying “that’s happy” became a part of our lives, one part reminder to enjoy the here and now and one part reminder that happiness is not finite; there is always more to be found.
On this Mother’s Day, we are apart as JT finishes up his first year of college, and I can’t help but think of this story and Willa’s chant. In a few weeks, he will be home again and I will be so glad to give him a hug and hear the sound of him in the house. I’m looking forward to that happy moment, confident that more happiness is around the corner.