Books and reading have always played a vital role in my life. In fact, my whole family has been blessed by this obsession. I have always said that aside from life, it is perhaps one of the greatest gifts that my father gave us all. My brother John is a wordsmith. He can put words together in a way that make me believe in the continuing magic of the written word.
In his eulogy to our sister Tiney last year he read these words.
“I remember a pink leather couch in the sun-room of Howard Street.
I remember us as children on that couch on either side of Dad. We visited many worlds filled with knights, magical trees, goblins and cursed princesses.
We trod the decks of the Dawntreader with Prince Caspian and Reepicheep.
We were with Sebastian in the attic of his English boarding school as he opened the pages of the book he stole from Carl Conrad CORENDAR.
Both of us were in the old inn under a galleon moon, tossed upon the stormy clouds with Bess, the black-eyed landlord's daughter, as she waited for her highwayman.
The nights always ended with insane laugher whilst tickled by Dad as he chanted the mantra of the spider that wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside the silly old women.”
Somehow, he conveyed so beautifully how words tie us all together. I don’t remember a pink couch, that came when I was older. I remember a couch with a red type of material and I am sure it had faux leather on the head rest and on the arms. I have a million vague memories of Dad reading to my older sister Nic and I every night. There is something so powerful in the magic of a story. There is something that is so permanent and hopeful about the love of the written word and the ability to get lost, if only only for a few moments between the pages of a book.
When Archie and Rissie were born I promised myself that I would pass on the same gift that Dad had given us. The love of the written word, the obsession with books, the ability to fall in love with the characters in a story. I have been reading to Archie and Rissie ever since they were born. Children’s stories, nursery rhymes, poetry and fables. I have been reading to them for just over 10 years and I am finally coming to the realisation that that part of my job of being a mother is almost complete.
We are heading into the last chapters of The Wishing Chair collection by Enid Blyton, and I realised only a few nights ago, that Archie and Rissie are really starting to piss me off. Rissie’s legs get agitated and she moves around a lot and occasionally her copy of Anne of Avonlea will fall out from under the pillow she has on her lap. She doesn’t seem quite so enthralled either by the rather magnificent voices I give every character. She even turned a few pages the other night to see what was coming next. Archie scans the lines ahead and will have the audacity to correct me when I read the wrong word. He even asked me rather anxiously, in the middle of a chapter the other night if he would still have time to read that night. I wanted to say, “For Fuck’s sake, what the hell is it you think we are doing?” But I didn’t, as when I am with the kids, I only curse inside my head and I probably would not have liked the answer.
The annoying thing is that they remind me of someone. They remind me of someone who got agitated and flicked the pages and corrected her father when he got a word wrong. They remind me of someone who eventually said to her dad, “I think I might just read my own book tonight dad” and abandoned another parent after a decade of reading. I don’t really want to admit it, but my job is done. I had so many other books to read to them. I have Ballet Shoes waiting and the Hobbit and I know that it is no longer my job to read these books to Archie and Rissie. It is their job to read them on their own. It made me a little bit sad that my reading days are almost complete. But at least I know my job is done. That is what I keep repeating to myself anyway.
I know that I have instilled in them a love of the written word and that is all that I wanted to do. When Rissie tells me that I need to fill out her school reading diary for an extra 90 minutes that day because she could not sleep and woke at 4.30 to read her book, a little part of my does a backflip inside because already she is showing signs of being a literary obsessive. When I snap at Archie to put his book away and pack his lunch box, I only do it because I am a little jealous that he is reading, and I gave up packing lunch boxes years ago.
We have a few chapters left and I am going to milk it for all they are worth. I love the feel of their little bodies next to mine, hanging onto my every word. I know they no longer hang but are probably sitting there to be nice, but I am going to finish their final book. I hope that when they are older, possibly with children of their own, that they will think back fondly to our brown and blue couch that I got off ebay. That they will remember snuggling under the blanket when it was cold. I hope they remember those days and that they also remember to pass that love on.
I know it is only one of many jobs as a parent. But my job is done.