Monday, December 28, 2009

Molly and the Middle East

I'm lying in bed with my latest book propped up against my knees. A sickly Molly is lying beside me because her illness has been concerning despite antibiotics. I'm exhausted but she's not tired.

"Molly, you need to go to sleep. I'm doing research."

She loves to "do research" with me. So, really wanting her to go to sleep, I realize I shouldn't have said this but, oh well. You can't unring a bell.

"So, tell me about that fancy pen of yours," she says, smiling up at me. It's often easy to forget that she's only two but, at this moment, the fact that she's only two has hit me. Hard.

"It's a highlighter," I explain, a sense of dread creeping up on me because I have taught her not to write in or otherwise destroy books. Could I really end up unravelling a couple of years' worth of her learning in this regard, end up changing her relationship with books?

"How does it work? How do you draw with it?"

"Well, you don't draw with it. Sometimes, in special circumstances, in special books, for special reasons like research, you use it to mark words that you want to remember."

She's really happy to learn, I think, that she may one day be able to write in books and she asks me to show her what highlighting a word actually means.

It's not a "dry" read by any means -- a memoir of travels in a Middle Eastern country -- but I can't imagine a two-year-old enjoying it or that I may be able to edit effectively as I read. But she wants me to read aloud.

"It's about a country called Iran," I tell her. "It's part of the Middle East."

"Could we travel to there?"

I pause. I don't want to tell her about visas and the difficulties one apparently encounters while trying to secure them. She is, after all, only two.

"Yes, we can one day."

She smiles and hugs me. For a moment, I imagine the two of us travelling to the far reaches of the globe together.

"We can travel there now, tho', in our imaginations. We can pretend we're there. Books help us do that. You can go all over the world by reading books."

And I start reading to her. There's really nothing obviously inappropriate in the passages I've reached thus far and, when something questionable arises, I omit it. If she notices, she doesn't let on. She listens attentively as the narrator recounts how his faith in humanity has been restored following an act of kindness by locals.

Time has stopped for a brief period. I'm no longer thinking that it doesn't feel like 8:30 at night; I no longer feel exhausted. As the story escapes my mouth and the words fall and settle between us, there's a calm sense that she and I have started something that we'll always love to do together.


  1. Ahhh, bugs. You're making me cry. Such a sweet moment.

  2. Suzanne3:16 PM

    Thank you, James :-) I really wanted to record the moment.