June 29, 2010

annie dillard vs. the three year old

Going with the whole 'savoring the summer' theme bedtimes have been a little later as of late. It's hard when the fireflies don't come out until 9:00!
No matter what time she goes to bed Guthrie picks out two books that I read to her. Then we talk about tomorrow. Then we cuddle for a few minutes while I get some much needed quiet reading time in.
For the past several years - seriously several - I've made gallant attempts to make it through Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I've read most of her other stuff and love it - she's one of the authors I turn to when my life feels not my own anymore - more on that later, but I cannot get more than 30 pages into Tinker Creek. It frustrates me to no end. So, as a goal I decide that my 32nd year of life will include finishing Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. And so a couple days after my birthday I pull it out and once again begin the journey.

There are two stark differences this time around. One - I somehow am able to concentrate on not just the flow of her words but what she's actually saying. And two - my three year old asks me to read it aloud to her.

We've always read long books to Guthrie. I think we got through the first Harry Potter book when she was around 18 months old. I absolutely expect that she be able to sit through a chapter or two. Of course she gets wiggly, of course she begins to play but we're always surprised when she can recount the plot to someone else or pipes up with some appropriately detailed question about the main character. However, up to this point we have always kind of stayed in the 'kids book' realm.

The first few nights she fell asleep as I read to her. I love the idea that the words are just kind of washing over her and exposing her to all kinds of language that doesn't often get used in our house. That even if she's not necessarily getting what is being said she's hearing the words.

Then one night as I think she's almost asleep I get to a passage on cicadas. Annie (we're on a first name basis now as I've tried to read this book so many times) describes how cicadas live underground for so long sucking sap out of tree roots.
All the sudden Guthrie's eyes pop open -- "We have cicadas. Why they live in the dark? Why are their eyes red? What are tree roots? Where are they?"

Uhhh. Yeah. Where do I begin on that one Gus? So we talk for awhile about tree roots and what it would be like to be underground and nocturnal animals and how cicadas are actually bugs though they're as loud (or louder, I swear) than birds. And I have no idea why they have red eyes. I promise her that if the cicadas come out during kickball the following night we'll go look for some so she can see one.

She settles back down into her pillow and I read on. Annie moves from cicadas to sharks. "Why do sharks die if they hold still? Gills like the goldfish at the library? Are they red like on the goldfish?"

I draw the line and say, "Guthrie, you need to go to sleep. We cannot talk about all of this tonight so I need you to hold those questions in your head until tomorrow and at breakfast we can talk about sharks."

There are a few more seemingly random comments for the next few paragraphs until she's finally so tired she can't talk anymore. And until I can barely keep my eyes open as it's past 10:30.

When I do get to bed I think about how maybe I could never finish this book because I was supposed to read it with Guthrie this year. I don't usually get all fate-y like that, but I can't help but think about how so much of Tinker Creek is a lesson in paying attention and how much that lesson is needed in my life right now. I'm so worried I'll miss something, but it's been an effort to move that worry from a place of anxiety to a place of action - where I'm actually paying more attention to the details of my life. I have high hopes for finishing the book as we're already on page 120. And I'm so curious to see where the book leads our nighttime discussions.

Sunday morning as we're making french toast guess what we're discussing. Sharks - which will die if they hold still.


Teresa said...

You are such a great mom :)

Patty G said...

Well, that explains why I got a lesson on tree roots today.

Kathryn said...



Related Posts with Thumbnails