Hadley never wants to read Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. I suggest we read it every couple of weeks, and when I pull it off the shelf she shakes her head and says, "I don't want to read that one." She won't tell me why.
However, I think the book is excellent, so every now and then I insist we read it. I usually hide it in between a Fancy Nancy and a Frances story. That way she's kind of lost in the world of accesorizing or thinking about Chompo Bars by the time I get to the first page of Fox's story.
The story is about Wilfrid Gordon trying to help his friend, Miss Nancy, find her memory. In order to do this, he needs to know what a memory is in the first place. So he asks around and he gets answers such as, "something from long ago," or "something that makes you cry," and "something as precious as gold." Once he's collected some ideas about what a memory is, he puts together a basket of objects and brings them to Miss Nancy in hopes she will find her memory.
This is my favorite part - Miss Nancy looks at each of the objects Wilfrid Gordon brings to her and says, "'What a dear, strange child to bring me all these wonderful things,'....Then she started to remember."
Perhaps this is why Hadley doesn't like this book. Because when I get to this part, sometimes my voice starts to crack. I might start reading more slowly, or quietly, or I'll stare at the pictures where Miss Nancy is remembering an event in her life from long ago. Hadley doesn't want me to get all sentimental. "Just read the story, Mom" is what I'm pretty sure she's thinking.
The other night we read Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge together and when we got to the part where he is trying to figure out what a memory is, I asked Hadley if she could think of a memory that went with the prompt in the book. Mrs. Jordan tells Wifrid Gordon that a memory is "something warm."
"Can you think of something that is warm?" I asked her.
"Yes, coal is pretty warm." I replied.
Mr. Tippit told Wilfrid Gordon that a memory is something "that makes you cry." I asked Hadley if she could think of a memory like that and she said, "Sometimes I get sad."
When I got to Mr Drysdale's answer, "something as precious as gold", Hadley asked Jesse, "Do you have a memory of something that is precious as gold, Daddy?"
"I do." he said.
"What is it?" Hadley asked.
"The day you were born."
Hadley might never enjoy this story, but I like to read it because I like to see Miss Nancy get a little of her memory back, and I like to hear what it is that she remembers. The memories are painful and funny and sweet, and I like to think that by remembering some events in her life, she is remembering a little bit about who she is. That's how I see it anyway.
I went through a pretty long phase of insisting that a certain character in a horror movie (that I should've never watched in the first place at a birthday party sleepover) was going to kill me if I fell asleep. I don't even want to write his name down now because it freaks me out. I have sympathy for those in the Harry Potter books who don't want to utter Voldermort's name. Anyway, my parents could count on me coming into their room at some point in the night asking if I could sleep with them. On one night, my mom walked me back to my room and sat with me for a bit. I told her I just couldn't stop thinking about this guy. He was so scary. She said, "Try and think about something good. Try to think about something you like to do."
So I thought about riding my bike. And ice-skating. And singing songs on the radio with a pretend microphone. I thought about my homeroom teacher whom I adored. She wore high heels but didn't pound them on the floor while she walked around. Her footsteps were quiet and soothing. I would practice walking like her when I played school.
This guy I was so scared of eventually stopped dominating my thoughts at night, but I still tend to think of scary things now and then. However, I do what my mom says and think about something good. Something I like to do. A lot of the memories that I like to think about come with pain, or hard work, or tears. They are still nice memories, and each of them tells me a little bit about myself.
I can't explain all this to Hadley right now, but I know she has memories of her own, and I know she'll recall them when she needs to. And if she doesn't want to read Mem Fox's book, I'll read her a Frances story and we'll talk about how hard it is to wait for our birthdays. We'll discuss how many months until she turns 4, and I"ll tell her that yes, tomorrow when she wakes up, she will still be 3 and 1/2. Or we'll read Fancy Nancy, Bonjour Butterfly and we'll talk about the time we went to the Butterfly Garden and saw all the butterflies. We'll also probably talk about how butterflies start off as caterpillars, and Hadley will bring up the time Harper stepped on a caterpillar and how sad that was.
I'll walk with Hadley and remind her of these events in her life until she can do that for herself. I'll watch and help her and her sister figure out who they are as they grow. I hope that I can provide good stories to read along the way.