“You read to me Mommy?” It isn’t really a question, but more of an emotional appeal. The book clutched in one hand is in danger of tumbling to the floor, a danger that is increasing as the other tiny hand tugs repeatedly at a fistful of my pant leg. A glance down shows a 3 year old’s wistful eyes peering intently up at me, a look that holds me like a deer in headlights.
“You read to me Mommy?” The soft voice says again, and I can hear subtle tones of tiredness hanging on the edges of his words. I shift to place the dishtowel on the counter and watch as he bolts away, assuming my gesture was a signal of compliance. I can’t help but smile to myself as I listen to his little feet make hurried blows on the path to his bedroom rocking chair.
He is waiting beside the rocker when I enter his room, a book and blanket clutched to him. The rocker is inviting in a well-used way, its long association with the reading sway of sleep can be seen in the threadbare patches of the seat and backrest. The wooden arms are decorated with scratches and deeper gouges showing a lighter shade of wood. I slide into the reader’s position, a comfortable depression that embraces me and like an echo I move to slide the tiny body onto my lap with blanket and book.
The thin slanted writing hidden under the cover marks decades gone by. Its cursive is an inscription passing this story from reader to listener, and reader to listener again. The book itself hasn’t changed in all these years, and it remains a light but reassuring weight in my hand. The hardcover is resistant and not easily broken therefore giving protection to the delicate 62 pages buried inside. Those pages are slightly worn, but still retain their playful illustrations and simple sentences.
I study the creases in the hand holding tonight’s Dr. Seuss book while a toddler fidgets to find a perfect spot of comfort on my lap. It is a dainty hand, and it is familiar. However, it is familiar not because it is mine, but because of the whispers it holds. My mother’s slender bone structure is mirrored back in the length and shape of my fingers. My short clipped white nails bring flashes of her shaping and polishing her own. The echoes of age found in the deepened creases of the knuckle joints and the patches of discolouring skin are reminiscent of the hands that I watched turn the pages while rocking me in this same chair.
The little body on my lap swaying back and forth eagerly prompts me to crack the cover of the book. It is almost like his body is sighing as he relaxes against me, and my voice settles into a gentle rhythm to match the to and fro motion of the chair. A warmth radiates off his tiny person as his eyelids slowly begin to droop. Keeping time with these rhythms I speak more with air then with my vocal cords, softly purring the remaining words of the story.
The sleep filled atmosphere in the room has a serene quality that pitches my mind lightly towards a deeper relaxation. As my head sinks down I glimpse my son’s sleeping features, so much like my own, and I become truly aware of the beauty in these rare moments. This aged chair has created a space for enjoying a brief period of time when the rest of the world shuts down and all that exists is parenting time not subject to any outside conditions. Caught within the rhythm of its movement is generations of warm memories and deep affection.