This is day one of my “Board Book Beauty – Savoring the small as I read to my toddler” series. To see all of the posts in the series, go here.
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” – G. K. Chesterton
A part of me wonders whether Chesterton would have penned such lines if he’d ever sat on a couch with a two-year-old, reading the same lines again and again until he could recite entire books by heart. In my lesser parenting moments, those times when I forget to see through my daughter’s eyes, when I forget to open myself up to wonder and instead think of all the things I could be doing if I weren’t reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the umpteenth time, I often have a word or two to say to Mr. Chesterton about monotony and exultation and his clever thoughts.
And yet, I wish I were “strong enough to exult in monotony.” This image of God creating daisies one by one, delighting in each petal, captivates me. It speaks of a kind of silliness almost, a wild abandon to the joy of it all. I want to recover the youth of our Father, to be so overcome by the good around me that I never tire of it.
Katie doesn’t know it, but she has a few favorite authors. She consistently chooses books by Sandra Boynton, by Dr. Seuss, by Audrey Wood. If you know anything about children’s literature, you’ll know that these three writers have several things in common: consistent silliness, fun rhythm and rhyme, and colorful illustrations – all of which speak directly to my girl’s heart.
We currently have Wood’s Silly Sally on loan from the library. We’ve borrowed it (and renewed it) enough times now that I should probably just go ahead and buy a copy. (Better yet, if I had any talent for drawing, I could illustrate it for her myself and recite the text from memory – thus saving a few dollars AND trips to the library.) But we continue to check it out, instead, and there’s something special about the joy on Katie’s face as we pull it from the shelf to take it home with us.
Sally earns the adjective silly, presumably, because of her method of getting to town – walking backwards, upside-down – though it could just as easily describe the reaction she provokes in her young fans. Katie is delighted by the antics of Sally and her animal friends. She laughs at each new step in the story no matter how many times we’ve read it; she’s familiar enough with it now that she can supply words as we go. She’s even been known to “read” it with a great degree of accuracy to her menagerie of stuffed animals. And she loves to walk like Sally; she hasn’t figured out the upside-down part yet, but backwards she can do, and do with aplomb.
“Silly” could also be used to describe my state of mind after a marathon session with Sally. As is true with many of her favorites, Katie would happily hear this book back-to-back, over and over, without pausing for breath between one reading and the next. My endurance gives out after three readings, at which point I usually encourage her to find something new; I haven’t fully tested the limits of hers.
I like Katie’s brand of silly better than my own.
This is my hope for this series, for these thirty-one days of reminiscing and reflecting, of reading and thinking and exploring: that together, we might recapture that wonder we felt when we were children. That we might be reminded of the goodness to be found in books – even board books. That we might see the ways that stories shape us and move us, the ways they open our imaginations and introduce us to new points of view. That we might be so entranced by what we see in front of us that we might be willing to be a bit silly. That we would be like Katie, like our Father, saying, “Do it again. Do it again!”
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