Night owl


[Keeping up the stream of non-prosey posts in the last, heady,  pre-K, dog days of summer.]

Guess who’s gunnin’ to be one among that rare, goth set of Kindergartners with bags under her eyes, thanks to staying up late reading?

Okay, well, proto-crypto-pseudo-quasi-reading. Air-quotes reading. The age-appropriate stuff, she breezes through. The within spitting distance of age-appropriate, the coupla years off stuff, she muscles through with support. Other stuff, like this compilation of fairy tales for late-elementary school readers, she engages in something more like a hybrid of Evelyn Wood/free-association.

Before I asked to take her picture — I pretty much never interrupt the nighttime routine with that kind of malarkey, and though the children are exquisite while asleep, photography feels more nakedly soul-stealing at a moment like that — I said, “This is the first time you’re reading in bed with a flashlight, isn’t it Buttercup?”

And she said, “I’m not really reading. I’m just pretend reading.” [Ed note: pronounced “bertend”] “But it’s okay. It’s all part of learning to read.”

My job, vis-a-vis this juggernaut of forward movement, this life’s longing for itself? It’s harder (I imagine) than creating cognitive harmony out of a visual cacophony for the first time: take the Buddhist dictum to heart.  Touch it (this miracle, this unceasing unfolding miracle) and let it go.

9 thoughts on “Night owl”

  1. Wow…that’s a terrifically intimate photo of Mz Monkey’s inner sanctum, with back lit paws in the fore and all. The semi blur makes her look bespec’d. Where ever did she acquire this notion of reading fairytales by flashlight? 🙂

    • At the rate she stares at the page, spectacles may not be far off, Violetta. The flashlight thing? Mmm. Did she ever see Baba do this?

      Yeah, Vikki — like riding a bicycle, it’s something that I learned to do so long ago I can’t even remember how I learned. Yet there’s something that defies all logic about it. Something tightrope-walky about it. It’s amazing to watch.

  2. Heartbreakingly beautiful. And lil’ Miss Garbo is frighteningly self-aware, isn’t she? It seems that she is observing the miracle of learning to read, and of growing up, even as she does it. (and yes, I realize that this self-awareness comes in flashes in the young, interspersed with all the other “-ness”-es of being small, but it is amazing when they notice… And fabulous that you’re chronicling it.)

    • I so feel you, angelina. They’re such tender filaments connecting her younger and older selves: she stretches and stretches them, and then at some point (always when you’re not looking) they snap and wave just a little bit in the breeze, before dissolving. Sometimes this chronicle feels like it’ll be all we’ll have to remember that, and I’m really grateful.

  3. Flashlight-reading is magical. I remember hunching over my nightlight to read because my mother confiscated all the known flashlights in the house. Hopefully–and I say this delicately–she will stay up far later than you would allow her, flashlight in hand for many more years…this “secret time” makes a child a lover of books.

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