Monday, September 1, 2014

Inch Twenty-Seven: O wonderful kittens! O Brush! O Hush!

Emails from either of my sons thrill me. A recent one from Ben sent me over the moon:

We thought you’d be happy to know that Ramona wants to read Color Kittens every night before bed.

The Color Kittens, with its vocative O, was written in the 1940s by Margaret Wise Brown, now better remembered for Goodnight Moon. It came out as one of the multitude of Little Golden Storybooks, those little cardboard books that grocers and five-and-dime stores stocked on spinning metal racks. Little Golden books made up a huge part of my library until I was old enough to get a library card and The Color Kittens, with its illustrations by Alice and Martin Provensen, was an early acquisition.

I read my childhood copy of Color Kittens to pieces. When I stumbled across a reissue in my adulthood, I bought it—the same one I read to Ben and Sam—and wore it to pieces as well. (Somewhere in this house is that copy with duct tape holding it together.) A few years back I bought three copies, hard bound this time, and set them aside. One for Ben, one for Sam, one for me. Ben's copy went out to Ramona.

The color kittens are two kittens on a quest to make green paint. "Of course the kittens couldn't read," but that didn't stop them from knowing their colors or from working in a paint factory, judging by their outfits and by the smokestacks on factories in the background, the building churning out buckets and buckets of paint.

We Skyped with Ben, Alise, and Ramona this Sunday and Alise remarked that The Color Kittens was the last book they read Ramona before bed each night. Sometimes, she added, Ramona insisted on holding The Color Kittens afterwards, and would fall asleep clutching the book.

That, I said, is a photo they need to take and email to me.

There is a deep sense of continuity in knowing that my granddaughter loves a book that I loved deeply as a child (and still do). There is a bedrock sense of satisfaction in knowing that the same words that lit up my mind light up hers.

In The End of Your Life Book Club, author Will Schwalbe makes a heartfelt observation about reading, life, and death, one which I emailed to Ben in response:

Reading isn't the opposite of doing, it's the opposite of dying. I will never be able to read my mother's favorite books without thinking of her—and when I pass them on and recommend them, I'll know that some of what made her goes with them: that some of my mother will live on in those readers.

Someday, sooner than I want, I will not know which books Ramona reads or which ones surround her as she falls asleep. Ramona and I may never have an intense conversation about books like the ones her father and I had in his childhood. But I am grateful beyond words knowing that the books I love, the ones I shared with my son, the ones I send out for my granddaughter, will carry a piece of my heart into Ramona's future.

1 comment:

see you there! said...

Not familiar with this one, will have to look for it for the family babies. Loved the image of Ramona going to sleep clutching the book. I like Real Books, can't imagine a child going to sleep clutching a Kindle, LOL!