Every night for a long time, I would either read a story to Sparkle Girl and Doobins or tell them a tale that I made up as I went along. We especially enjoyed the Fern Hollow period, because we could return to the same world and characters in book after book. In one story, the badger Brock Gruffy might have a misadventure with a hot air balloon. In another, Polly Prickles (yes, a porcupine) would share the hamper of treats she won by winning the treasure hunt that Parson Dimly the mole organized to raise money to repair the hole in the church roof.
During that time, if you asked what I thought of Legos just after I stepped on one in my bare feet, I would have given them a scathing review. At any other time, though, I would have told you how much I liked sitting with Doobins and watching him build a robot, a castle, or some other wonder. His focus and concentration was like a surgeon’s. If beads of sweat had appeared on his brow, I would have mopped them with a handkerchief.
As a bonus, we never had to worry about coming up with a gift. It was simply a matter of deciding what Lego kit to buy for him. With Sparkle Girl, it was American Girl dolls and everything that went with them. Both had a Playmobil period. And, although it was Doobins who played with the wooden toys the most during the Thomas the Train era, I think we all equally enjoyed watching the Thomas the Train adventures on DVD.
Over time, some of the nighttime rituals have changed as well. For a long time, after I tucked in Sparkle Girl, I would blow her a kiss as I left the room. Now it’s a hug in the living room before she retires to her room with Sherbert the cat, a lovable madman who cannot be trusted to run free throughout the house at night because he might, say, swat the containers of colored pencils off Garnet’s art desk.
At bedtime, I still sit with Doobins in his room while he drinks his final cup of milk for the day. The official reason is so that I can take the cup to the kitchen when he’s done. The true reason is so that we can end the day together horsing around if we feel like it, or just sitting quietly, if that is what fits our mood before saying, “I love you” to each other as he hands me the empty cup.
I’m not complaining. I enjoy talking with Sparkle Girl and Doobins person-to-person these days in a way that would not have been possible during the Playmobil era. I am just saying that I miss many aspects of those days.
The other day, Garnet announced that she wanted another child. I was already sitting down, so I didn’t have to worry about my knees buckling. After I recovered sufficiently to ask where that thought came from, she said that, as of late, she had been thinking about how much she missed reading children’s books to the kids. I told her that I had been having some of the same thoughts.
A couple of days later (at a fund-raiser book sale), she picked up a vintage (but new to us) children’s book illustrated by Tibor Gergely, one of our favorite artists. At night, Garnet asked me to read it to her and the kids. Doobins chose not to join us. So I read it to Garnet and Sparkle Girl.
The illustrations made us smile.