She runs to the bookshelf and chooses – the cover is immediately familiar and I smile. She loves this book. I love this book. I love reading her the words as she sits in my lap, her finger running over the text, the images; reading along – we both know this one off by heart.
Come little monkey, come, come, come. It’s time I took you home to –
Mum! My little monkey exclaims, as I cuddle her close and tight.
I kiss her goodnight and give her a snuggle; pull up the covers and whisper sweet secrets in her ear. In her one-piece pajamas, the green fuzzy ones with the little owl on it, she still looks like a baby. But as I put the book back on the shelf, thick, cardboard pages fraying at the corners; spine cracked and broken from all the years that we have enjoyed it together, I know that this is not really the case anymore. The footy pajamas will be outgrown by next season, and the board books will be outgrown as well.
Mischa groans and rolls her eyes when her sister picks a ‘baby book’ as her bedtime story choice, my five-year-old having moved on to the pleasures of more intricate paperbacks, poetry collections and chapter books. I enjoyed the transition when we went through it the first time because of the excitement of my oldest moving on to different things, and because of the excitement of seeing my youngest being able to claim as her own the books whose domain was previously shared with her older sister.
I try to keep my sentimentality in check as I watch my children grow out, grow up. But the thought of putting books that have been synonymous with my children’s infancy back on the shelf for the last time is conjuring up yet another emotion I never knew existed. It’s not nostalgia or the pleasure/panic that hits me with every milestone attained – it’s a true sadness this time. My favorite books, the ones we have shared, are written with a cadence, a sweetness that so rhythmically echoes the traditions and routines of babyhood; that have introduced to my babies the magic of story-time giggles and bedtime snuggles.
And then, I realize, just as simply as that, that it is not really the end of the words, the pictures, the sing-song rhymes that this melancholy resides over; it’s that once again the gentle tide of passing time is taking my babies further into the sea of childhood, where board books give way to chapter books and one-piece pajamas are handed down to new babies, not mine.
And I am left, watching from the shore, blowing my kisses into the breeze.