Every night, each of the big girls comes upstairs with me separately and we spend some time reading. For Goose, she loves picture books. Some of her favorites are My Name is Not Isabella and Penny and the Blue Marble.
For Magoo, it’s always a chapter book. I’m not exactly sure how that transition went – the one from picture books to chapter books. On her own, she will still pick up a picture book on occasion, but when we read together, it’s always a chapter book.
I think she saw picture books as being big kid books, so once she was old enough to read them, she didn’t want to go back. I guess I never really thought much of it.
And then today we went upstairs, and Goosie picked Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.
I remember the first time I read that book. At the time I hadn’t even heard of it, and I didn’t have any kids. I was sitting reading books with my favorite little person on the day before her first birthday when we came to that one. We slowly made our way through it.
And then it got really strange.
A mother sneaking into her grown son’s room to rock him to bed? Talk about some serious boundary issues.
When I got to that part, it honestly got too weird for me, and I placed it to the side and moved on to the next book. Without avoiding, of course, feeling scarred for quite some time afterwards.
And then about 18 months later, Magoo was born. No one gave us that book as a gift. It wasn’t part of the hundreds of kids books we were accumulating. But it was always at the back of my mind.
And then one day I saw it at a store, and I handed over my $5 and bought it. We’ll see if it feels any different now that I’m a mother.
And at first, it honestly didn’t. It still felt weird and creepy, and I couldn’t get over just how horribly the mother aged throughout the book.
But Magoo kept asking for it, and I kept reading it. We got into a rhythm where I would sing the first two stanzas of the song and then she would sing the last two. When we got closer to the end, and she would sweetly sing,
“I’ll love you forever/ I’ll like you for always/ As long as I’m living/ My mommy you’ll be,” I admit that I would occasionally get choked up.
And on other days I liked the characterizations of life with children — yes, a zoo does describe it well!
And for quite a few years, that book had just been with us. Until somehow it must have gotten buried in the bottom of one of our many book baskets because when Goosie brought it to me tonight, I realized that it had been forever since I had read it. Goosie didn’t even remember it.
And so I opened the book and I started to read it to her. It felt new and fresh. It was the same old love song professed to an entirely new person. With kids, the traits change, the characteristics change, but the love is the same.
And I was reading the lines to her, and I felt her little body calm like it very rarely does ever, even during story time. She was totally peaceful. And when it was over, she looked at me. She was smiling.
She knew it was a book. I knew it was a book. But we also knew it was more. It was my lullaby to her.
And then it was over and it was time for me to read to Magoo. Surely, I thought she would insist on Runaway Ralph. We were about halfway through, and we were both hooked. But as she walked in the room, I tentatively asked her if perhaps today she would want to read a picture book instead. I thought this was a long shot. But then I held up Love You Forever and she agreed as along as she also got another book along with it.
We quickly made it through the first book, and then we settled into Munsch. This time as I turned the pages, I realized the early parts of the book that so reminded me of life with her when we first started reading, were no longer her. They were about babies we could laugh about. And she wasn’t quite to the stage of the great big nine year old boy, but she’s not all that far off either.
And then for the first time, I noticed the pages. I noticed them getting ever so slightly discolored. I noticed they were just slightly more brittle. And I realized that the physical book was starting to show its age. A book that I read to my daughter was old enough to look old. How could that even be? How could that little baby who used to love the pictures of the cat in the book, now correct me if I missed a word or messed up a phrase because she was reading right along with me? How could time have moved that quickly?
And as we got to the end, that same book that had creeped me out only eight years ago, now was making me choke up. I didn’t even know if I could finish.
But I did. And we closed the book.
And then Magoo looked at me.
“You know what’s really cool, Mommy? The Mom sang the song to the boy. And then when he grew up he got to sing the song to his little girl. And when she grows up, she’ll get to sing it to her baby.”
And all the crazy tears are blurring my vision just as I type that. Because it’s so true. And it came from her heart. And she understands love. She understands that it doesn’t end. She knows that because she has seen it. She has felt it. She has been both the bearer and the recipient. Feeling loved, to her, is as commonplace as the sun rising.
I started out the book, feeling a bit reminiscent of days gone by with her, and I ended it in absolute awe of the little girl she has become, of who she is becoming.
And we talked about it for a bit. How love doesn’t die because we just keep teaching it to all the people who come after us. The same love that my great great grandmother had for my great grandmother is the same love my mom showed me and I now show my girls.
This unique, overwhelming, fresh, all-encompassing love that I feel when I look at my girls is actually the same love that has been around since the beginning of time. It’s universal. It’s bigger than us. It was before us and it will be after.
But the miracle… the miracle is that we get to partake in it. We get to receive love and give love and be love, and that same love that created the moon is the same that lives in my heart when I hold my girls and I rock them to sleep.
We live day in and day out. Everything seems so ordinary. We stop expecting magic. We stop expecting miracles.
But then we realize that all of it, every single little piece of it, is a miracle.
It’s divine. And it’s human.
And ultimately, it is ours for the taking.