Tuesday, June 24, 2014
And Then She Could Read
Duchess hops into my lap and hands me her single-word flash cards. I'd purchased the flashcards at Walmart over a year ago in one of those optimistic parent moments. You know those moments? They’re the ones where you’re walking around Walmart and you imagine your kid sitting in your lap, happily looking at flashcards and talking about how they want to be a doctor someday. They’re the ones where you close your eyes and see an exact picture of your child, older now and calmer, sitting in the shade of a cottonwood tree, reading “Of Mice and Men”. She gets to the end, “Tell me about the rabbits, George.” The air she is breathing gets trapped in her chest. She closes the book on her index finger and bites her lower lip to push the tears back in, then opens the book and looks back out over the vista with Lenny and George.
“That’s right! Good job!”
The smile that takes over her face when she realizes that letters make the sounds that make the words is bigger than her face itself. I am as surprised as she is. The flash cards have been sitting on the shelf since we bought them. Stevie and I have pulled them out a few times, but she never seemed very interested. Instead, she was interested in “Pete and Pickles” and “Are You My Mother” and “Star-Bellied-Sneeches” and “Room on the Broom” and “Skippyjon Jones” over and over and over and over again. I've never seen her mom say no to a book, and unless I have chicken in the skillet midway between raw and done, I can’t recall many times that I have said no either.
“Bag. Yes, that’s right!”
“I’m reading, daddy!”
Sometimes I close my eyes when I smile. This time I see her falling asleep in a bed we've yet to buy her. The light is still on – not because she is scared, or because she doesn't like the dark; the light is on because the evil wizard Randall Flagg is walking up the stairs of the tower to end Prince Peter. With each step he gets closer and with each step her eyelids sink. The unknown end is coming and she wants to push on. One more step. One more page. One half-sentence before her eyes close, fail to lift and she sleeps under a well-lit blanket of books, the wizard Flagg pressed against her chest, waiting for morning to come. My smile is a portal from my imagination to reality. I whisper good night. I turn the off her light. I open my eyes again.
“You are reading! I’m so proud of you!”
She doesn't know the gate she’s just opened. She doesn't know that the world has just bloomed in a way that it has only done once before. The day we took her home from the hospital and carefully strapped her into her tiny car seat, while driving half the speed limit on back roads to avoid any sudden movements, I looked out over the Salt Lake Valley and said to Stevie, “The last nine months her world was inside you. For the last three days her world has been our hospital room. Her world just got infinitely bigger, and she doesn't even know it yet.” Stevie nodded in agreement and we cautiously drove her home to her freshly painted room that had already been filled with beautiful books.
“That’s right. Big. Very, very big.”