I originally started writing this post about my experience reading some books to my daughter in mid-November. Having finally the time to finish it, I publish it now. Keep in mind we’re currently on The Silver Chair. The fun never ends. With apologies to C. S. Lewis
I need a break.
Yesterday I got called to drive to Lubbock. Lubbock is a city of about a quarter-million souls in the Texas panhandle. It vies with Amarillo for the title of “Jewel of the Panhandle”. I suppose that’s better than it’s former moniker: “Notch #3 on the Bible Belt”. It’s actually a very nice city; it’s just that there’s literally nothing between here (the Dallas-Fort Worth area) and there. And it’s a five hour drive without stops or traffic which, believe it or not, can pop up on the remotest stretches of I-20 without rhyme or reason.
I received my marching orders from my boss around noon yesterday for a package that needed to be delivered no later than 8:30 this morning. Now go back and read where I said that Lubbock is five hours away. Ordinarily I would have taken that information and made use of it. My plan was to grab the kids from school, workout, and hit the sack. If I could be in bed by 7, I figured, I’d get about seven hours of sleep before leaving home at 2AM for the long drive out west. But you know that wasn’t going to happen…
About an hour before the kids got out of school I took my pre-workout meal which consists of a bowl of cream of rice mixed with a tablespoon of almond butter along with 50g of whey protein. For funsies I like to add a shot of bourbon or two. It takes the sting away when I realize by the time I’m taking my post-workout meal that I haven’t made much of a dent in my progress. And the cream of rice is so tasty! I almost wrote that without laughing.
Even though it’s been cold with temperatures in the 30’s I headed out the door to get the kids wearing my running shorts and a hoodie. You have to know from that fact that I was never going to get to workout. I got called to run a different job at 4:30. Then I was informed that the thing I’d be taking to Lubbock wouldn’t be ready for pickup at the airport now until 10:30. One thing lead to another and before I knew it, it was 2AM, I hadn’t slept a wink, and I was heading off to Lubbock. This was not going to be fun.
I delivered the package ahead of deadline, grabbed some coffee, and headed back home taking in the now-familiar cotton fields and oil wells along the drive. I’ve now done this Lubbock run often enough that I know what’s off every exit. Need a Chick-fil-A? Wait until Weatherford. Clean bathrooms? Try the Allsup’s in Abilene. Heading out the final 90 mile stretch on US 84? Check the gas gauge. There’s only one station between Roscoe and Post. My God when did I become this man?
I walked into my house just shy of 3 this afternoon. I took my belt and shoes off, climbed into bed, pulled the covers over myself, and slapped my hand twice on the mattress next to me. That signaled my Jack Russell, Buddy, who dutifully came running in from the family room, hopped on the bed, and curled up next to his master. Man’s best friend indeed.
The Chronicles of the Chronicles
A few hours later I woke up. You’re probably wondering about the title and the Narnia reference. Patience is a virtue Eileen. I’m gettin’ there. I got out of bed and had some dinner. I even tossed a scrap at Buddy for being such a good boy. He, being a terrier, took the morsel and then snapped at me before walking away muttering something about getting some money together so he can “get outta here and find his own place.”
This is a story about one of my kids and our fascinating relationship. My daughter is very much like her old man in many ways. By that I mean that her brain seems to process interpersonal relationship in the same way I do. This can be a good thing. But one area where I think we diverge in our thought patterns is how we pay attention to another when that person is reading to us. OK, so I can’t say I’ve had anyone “read” to me as such in many years but you get the point.
Two years ago I endeavored to read the seven book “Chronicles of Narnia” to my son. I had read the first three when I was young. I’m glad I got through all seven with him. I thoroughly enjoyed the series as did he. Within the past month or two my daughter asked when I would be reading the series to her. It seems she cannot be left out and if he got something, she wants it too. For instance there was that time she wanted her tonsils out just like her brother. Or how about the time she demanded life would be no good unless she could also play basketball. I still think it odd that she asked why she hadn’t been circumcised.
Or I could look at it as “she wants some time with Daddy”. And for that I’m happy.
We zipped through the first book in the series. And for the record, the ONLY way to read them is in the order in which they were written. The effort of some publishers after the fact to rearrange the series into some kind of chronological order, to me anyway, does not work. Forget for a second that Narnian time does not work like time in England. There is something to be said about reading such an epic tale in a way that leaves mysteries – past and future – intact. So many times I find myself saying “Ah… so that’s why that happened so many books ago,” even though it was an event in the “future”.
As soon as I returned The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to the library I picked up Prince Caspian. This one took a little longer to get through. We were into a season full of distractions like Halloween. Try settling any 9 year-old down to hear about a barbarous battle on a fictional hill after demolishing a bag of Kit Kat’s. But we trudged on right through the scene were Glenstorm and Trufflehunter savagely attacked Rum Tum Tugger and Mungojerry before beating Miraz to death with a the severed arm of a centaur named Bobby.
All the while my precious darling was doing her level best to pay attention to all the details. In fact, she followed the story quite well. Her brother had a better time following but that’s because he didn’t stop to ask questions. With her it’s “Wait, Daddy, why did the White Which do that?” or “Wait, Daddy, Where was the train station located? Like couldn’t they find it again and go home?” or “Wait, Daddy, do you think unicorns can really poop glitter?” You know, esoteric comprehension stuff like that.
Finally, Caspian the Tenth restored to the throne of Narnia and the Telmarines (I hate them) returned to whatever pirate island they came from, we moved on to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Night after night we read a few pages at a time. I didn’t mind because I was enjoying the time with my baby. Her observations are amusing and she really seems rapt in the sound of my voice. It’s a sweet picture of a sweet girl and her old man.
But those observations do tend to make me reach a breaking point when I’m tired. She had already asked about how the dragon died on the island. “I don’t know.” She had asked about why Caspian was sailing on this voyage again. “Let me recap the entire first five chapters, dear.” She had told me that a friend at school has an iPhone X and it’s not fair because she gets everything. “You know what she doesn’t have, lady? A freakin’ father!” Oh wait, that wasn’t supposed to be verbalized. Falling asleep in her bed one night I read the following line from Cousin Eustace: “Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me.”
As I read the words between yawns I could see my little girls hazel eyes (same as mine) grow wide with excitement.
“I know! I know! I bet it’s Aslan, isn’t it!?!?!”
I slammed the book shut and said “Well who the hell did you think it was?! He’s the only lion in the whole damn series!”
And because she has inherited my sense of humor she took this not as a rebuke but for the humor it was and we laughed.
I read a few more pages. Eustace stopped being a brat. And my daughter drifted off to sleep.
And this is why I love being a dad.