Maggie Jane is sitting curled up sideways in an armchair, practically in the fetal position in a wreath of books, already half way through a Junie B. Jones even though we just got home from the bookstore. She doesn't hear me when I call her name. She is oblivious to Kate's interpretive dance performance of the movie Frozen. She is in the zone.
I'm not annoyed that she won't answer me. I'm proud. Catching her in the quiet reading pose feels similar to the welling up of love I get when I go in at night to tuck them back in and kiss them in their sweaty sleep. No matter how many things they've broken that day, no matter how much I've wanted to wring their necks, it's hard not to adore them when they are fast asleep. They can't possibly look more angelic than when they're being so good and so silent!
I know this new habit of hers warms my heart so much because it reminds me of me: I am a reader, and look how the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. But I also have to admit that I really love my daughter's ability to read to herself because it's QUIET.
Peace and quiet have not been much a part of my experience as a mother. Books, on the other hand, have been there for me every step of the way. Maggie was a colicky baby who screamed bloody murder through most of her first six months of life and nursed around the clock. Delirious with fatigue, I started reading all of Agatha Christie's murder mysteries in chronological order starting with The Mysterious Affair at Styles. What else can you do while stuck on the couch all day with a cluster feeding newborn and insomnia-induced poor short-term memory besides whip through And Then There Were None for the 200th time? (I'm still not finished. I'm bogged down in the dreary post-WWII stretch.)
A few years later, Maggie grew into a sensitive, emotional, easily-overstimulated toddler who would launch into epic tantrums over the smallest things. Parking ourselves back on the couch to burn through a stack of her favorite picture books was often the only way to get through the day. And when I couldn't take another second of playing Fairy Princess Mermaid Cats or listen to one more knock knock joke with an esoteric kindergarten punch line, Curious George or the Lorax or Charlie Bucket came to my rescue. Letting my little wild child crawl up into my lap and tuck her curly head under my chin while we shared a book together has been a way for us to forge a quiet bond in the midst of an emotionally turbulent relationship.
At the moment, we are in a short lull between those preschool tantrum years and the impending tweenybopper "I hate you" stage. Things seem to be on a more even keel now that my baby bird has flown the nest. She goes to school every day with her backpack and lunch box. She's in the purple reading group, which is totally her favorite color. She tells me all about the little boy in her class who is SO funny and wonderful that she threw a rock at him on the playground and got in trouble. When we go to the bookstore or the library, she comes home with a short stack of thick chapter books, sits sideways in an armchair, and tunes out the world. Sometimes on Saturdays she and I stay in our pajamas all day, cuddled up under a blanket on that same old couch, reading our books side-by-side, and Mike has to take Kate to the hardware store because her bongo drumming is making us both crazy.
These will be the moments I look back on fondly when she's grown, and this common passion will be one of the things that holds us together when the road gets rocky. She's already got my old copies of Charlotte's Web and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Hopefully this is just the beginning.