This afternoon the girls and I went to Starbucks. This is nothing terrifically novel, we find ourselves there often after the park or library or errands. “Can we sit?” they always ask, holding chocolate milk boxes in their hands. I always say yes.
Today, we brought along coloring books, math puzzles, and reading books. Hadley and Harper worked on them while I read one of the books I am to complete before my first summer residency in my MFA program. Currently, I’m reading All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy.
It was nice to sit and read and talk a bit over coffee and chocolate milk. It pleases me greatly that the girls like to patronize coffeeshops and bring books with them to boot. But today I was in a contemplative mood because I was at school doing Book Club and we read the book, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
When I lifted the book to read, one child leaned over to me and said, “I only read this story in the daytime, NEVER at night!”
“I think I understand why,” I responded, and began to second guess whether this was a good book to read to preschoolers. Not one to change the plan – on the spur of the moment or ever – I went ahead and read it.
The kids were quiet as I read. They all had the same position: legs crossed, elbows resting on knees, heads tilted back and mouths slightly open. I know I’ve picked a good story when I see kids like this. Still, I wondered if something creepy stirred in them as I read. Did they recognize themselves in Max? Had they said mean things to their parents and been sent to their rooms? Did they want to go where he went?
I wonder if what’s unsettling about the story is not so much the monsters but that we understand Max. We know about being naughty. We know about wanting to create another world where we’re in charge. We know about being overwhelmed when what we’ve created is too much to handle.
And yet, there’s that lovely sentence at the end. “And it was still hot.” No pictures. No fancy lettering. Just words to let us know that when we get carried away, when we get in trouble, when we are overwhelmed with a situation we may be in, we can always come home. At least, that’s what I hope for my own children and each of the kids I read to today.
After the book, we made masks to have a Wild Rumpus of our own. The kids thought this was a fantastic idea except for the child who only reads Where the Wild Things Are in the daytime.
“I don’t want to make a mask,” he told me.
“That’s OK. Would you like to be a part of the Wild Rumpus?”
He nodded his head.
“Would you like to draw a picture of something you love that you can dance with during the Wild Rumpus?”
Again, he nodded, then said, “I think I’ll draw a Transformer.”
I said that sounded good and sent him to his seat, thinking he and Max might end up being fine friends someday.
All the kids took turns being Max, saying to the monsters, “Let the Wild Rumpus begin!” and, “NOW STOP!” I thought this was important that each had a chance to create and end the craziness. Is it too much of a stretch to show that they have the power to start and stop the wildness when it gets overwhelming? The little boy who didn’t want to be a monster had a good time with what he created and I was glad he talked to me so we could figure something out.
The book that I’m reading now, All the Pretty Horses, is a difficult book for me to read. I feel stupid admitting that. There are words I don’t understand. I am trying to figure out why the author doesn’t use quotation marks when a character is speaking. Even the plot is hard for me to follow. I’m taking lots of notes so that if you were to open the book you’d see blue ink – stars, underlines, words, question marks – all over the pages. Still, I barely grasp what’s going on and I fear that when I go to Santa Fe this summer I will be frantically praying that nobody calls on me when we discuss this story. Oh, to be 5 and have the confidence to say, “I can’t do this, but can I hang out with you guys anyway?”
The girls and I ended the Spring Reading Challenge today, and I’ve written about the books we’ve read and the activities we did – both serious and silly. It seems right that we ended the challenge in Starbucks, a friendly place where others know us and we are happy. Because when you’re reading about sixteen year old cowboys (I think) who love horses (I think) or trying to draw a dinosaur from your favorite dinosaur book, or looking out the window and thinking of your own stories, it’s nice to know the coffee’s still hot. And the chocolate milk is still cold.