I feel like the day has crumpled up around me, lost its structure like a tent with its poles removed. A softly collapsed mess devoid of its former shape. Me still stuck somewhere in it.
I think I may have underestimated the demands of two little ones and working motherhood. Certainly of managing two sets of needs: there are after school swimming lessons AND nappies, lunchboxes AND bottles to prepare, soothing and rocking AND bedtime stories. The end of the day does seem to collapse in on itself at times, the automatic routine of feeding and bathing and unpacking and repacking and washing and sorting and playing and fixing and listening, gaining the sort of momentum that eventually undoes itself.
And then just as suddenly, the frenzy is over, and it's bedtime. The little one popped into her cot with her bottle first, then the bigger one tucked into bed, snuggled up close for a story. The day seems to somehow regain its structure. I can recognise myself again. A full stop at the end of the sentence. All makes sense once more.
There's never a night without story time, no matter where we are, no matter how tiring the day was or how late it is. There's a magic in it that can't be skipped. It made me think of a section in Daniel Pennac's charming The Rights of the Reader. I thought I'd share his reflections on parents and that magical reading that takes place on the border of day and night, here:
We were in a state of grace during those early years. Our total sense of wonder in the face of a new life transformed us into geniuses. For them, we became storytellers. As soon as they emerged, blinking, into the world of language, we told them stories. It was a talent we didn't know we had. Their enjoyment inspired us. Their happiness gave us voice. We created character after character, adventure after adventure, ratcheting up the plots. We invented a whole world for them, much as the aging Tolkien did for his grandchildren. On the border of day and night, we became their novelist.
Not that it would have mattered if we'd had no talent for storytelling. If we'd told them other people's stories - badly, groping for words, mispronouncing names, mixing up adventures, muddling the beginning of one with the ending of another... Even if we hadn't made up stories at all, if we'd just read aloud, we'd still have been their personal novelists, their special storytellers helping them slip into their dreamy pajamas every evening before dissolving under the sheets of night. More than that, we were the book.
Remember that intimacy. There's nothing like it.
How we loved scaring just for the thrill of consoling! And how desperately they wanted to be scared! They weren't fooled, even then, but they trembled all the same. They were real readers, in other words. What a playful partnership we formed: they the cunning readers, we the book!