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Archive for April, 2012

Goodnight Moon

I don’t get Goodnight Moon.

I mean, on the one hand, of course I get it. What is there to not get? There’s a rabbit going to bed, and as he goes through his nighttime routine, he says goodnight to all of the things in his room, including but not limited to a mouse, two cats who seem unconcerned about the presence of a mouse, and a bowl full of mush, which only seems to be appetizing to the mouse.

But on the other hand, I don’t get it. The illustrations are charming but not great. The rhyme is pretty basic. There are no characters, nothing extremely clever, and every other two-page spread is in grayscale. When I looked at it at Goodwill before Erin was born, I hesitated before I threw it in the cart. My brother and I didn’t have it when we were kids, so there was no nostalgia driving me to make sure this book was on Erin’s shelf. I wasn’t sure there would be anything in this book, despite its status as a classic, to appeal to a modern child. For 50 cents for a brand-new copy, I figured I could take the chance even though it didn’t speak to me at all.

None of that matters, though, and this is why: Erin loves it. She loves lots of books (Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin, Little Tickles, Jamberry, Clifford’s Furry Friends, and Touch the Art: Tickle Tut’s Toes, to name a few), but she has a special spot in her baby bibliophile heart for Goodnight Moon. She specifically goes to the shelf to pick it out. She pushes it across the floor to me to read not just at bedtime but during the day as well. She points to the little toy house and the young mouse as I say the words, and excitedly declares “Kitties!!” every time the kittens appear on the rug. She will go to bed if she hasn’t heard it, but not as easily as she does when it is the last bedtime story we read.

We’ve been reading Goodnight Moon since Thanksgiving, and I still don’t understand what it is that sets this particular book apart for Erin. Maybe it’s the cadence of the words. Maybe it’s the simplicity, that this book is not surreptitiously trying to teach a lesson about colors or manners or shapes or body parts but instead is simply saying goodnight. Maybe it’s the repetition, the familiarity, the fact that this is the book that we always read before bed. Maybe it’s not the book at all, but instead the snuggling and the coziness she associates with it. Maybe I’ll never get Goodnight Moon. Maybe I don’t need to. Maybe all I need to know is my daughter loves it, and she loves reading it with me.

My brother and his wife had their first baby yesterday afternoon, a little girl with a tiny bit of reddish-brown hair. I sent a care package before she was born full of practical things like baby nail clippers and the Snugli Erin just outgrew, but this morning I sent them a copy of Goodnight Moon. I can only hope my niece loves it as much as Erin does.

There are those two little kittens.

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I try to tell myself that I don’t have time for writer’s block — if what I want to say isn’t going to manifest itself on the page in the time I have, then it can just wait until I have a free and clear minute some other time.

Currently I have two half-written musings langushing in my wordpress account: one, a listless attempt to be profound on the night before I turned thirty; the other, a retelling of a happenstance event that bothered me greatly back in August. (Yes. August.)

The birthday ramblings don’t amount to much — I felt for some reason that I owed it to myself to get all wordy and nostalgic before I turned thirty. It took three or more times of CTRL-A, Delete before I finally gave up and realized that I didn’t have any profound insights on turning thirty. Not only did I not have any great wisdom to impart, I didn’t really mind that I was leaving my twenties behind. True, my twenties were good to me — any decade that can produce the two loves of my life (Mike and Erin), a stable job for over half of it, and a very brief time at the beginning in which I paid the bills with words can’t be bad at all — but I wasn’t and still am not overly sad to move forward. The despair and the anguish and the chest-beating and the binge drinking that accompanied some of my acquantences’ forays into decade number four never washed over me. I’m in a good place. And if there’s anything I learned about writing while in my twenties, it’s that nothing is as boring to read about as someone else being in a good place.

So that post which I initially chalked up to writer’s block I’ve written off as writer’s apathy. There is something to be said for knowing when you have nothing to say and keeping your mouth shut.

The other post I’ve been nursing since August has been driving me crazy for the opposite reason. One small moment in which Erin, Willow, and I were glared at and summarily judged by a septegenarian in a Buick the size of my house started the spiral of musings and rantings about everything from judgement upon stay-at-home moms to the decay of my particular suburb and with it The American Dream (if that even is such a thing) to the great lessons from one of my favorite books (The Way We Never Were, by Stephanie Coontz, which I believe should be required reading for anyone who tries to come at you with an “argument” that starts with “In the good old days…”) to What We Can Learn from Betty Draper Francis. I can’t finish it because I can’t decide exactly what I want it to be about. Is it about me? My kid? My dog? My neighborhood? My reaction to being judged? My overactive imagination that assumes I’m being judged? I’ve revised and revised and rewritten and held my own personal workshop on it (asking myself things like “did you earn that cliche?” and scribbling “SHOW DON’T TELL” in the margins…) and finally decided that at this moment, the fact that I can’t choose what it needs to be about means it doesn’t need to be written at this moment.

When I was in fifth grade and struggling to learn to play the trumpet, my band director scoffed at me when I said I didn’t have time to practice. “You don’t FIND time,” he sneered, “you MAKE time.” His words echo in my head when I tell myself I don’t have time to write. I don’t make time. I’m not one of these people who can get up early in the morning and write for an hour while the house is still quiet — smacks too much of grad school and the stomachaches I’d fight while trying to finish a paper before heading to work. The point is not to list all of my excuses why I don’t write more; rather, the point is that I don’t make time to write, so I don’t have the luxury of writer’s block. If I can’t come up with a point and a good reason why I need to say whatever it is in my limited amount of time, I move on.

Someday I will come back to the post about the dog and the baby and the Buick and the neighbor. Because it’s good stuff, I promise you. I just am not going to make time right now to pull the good stuff out of the rest.

Besides, if you had the choice between writing by yourself and playing with this adorable little reader, would you really choose writing? I don’t know about you, but I choose her every time.

She takes her books seriously.

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