There weren’t a lot of books in our house when I was little. However, we did have the essentials: The Bible (first and foremost), and the complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica of which my parents couldn’t afford, but the salesman said, “They will be an educational asset for your children for years.” What parent doesn’t want the best when it comes to their children’s education? To date, I don’t know what happened to the “educational assets” and, I don’t remember using them that much. I like to think that somewhere a family has our set and are putting them to good use.
While my memory may be a little hazy, regarding my childhood literary collection, I do remember my favorite bedtime story: The Little Red Hen. Mom read this classic to me every night. The little Red hen’s dilemma tugged at my heart. Oh, how I wanted to help her! Mom and I both memorized the story. I can still hear my mother’s soft, sympathetic voice as she read:
“Who will help me plant this wheat so that we can eat fresh bread?” The little Red hen said.
Mom let me say the animal’s responses.
“Not I,” said the dog. “Not I,” said the pig. “Not I,” said the cow.
When Mom smiled and tightened her arm around me, I knew that I said the lines correctly. Nothing is more rewarding than a mother’s affirming hug.
Looking back, I know Mom tired of reading the same story night after night, but she never complained. Occasionally, she would ask to read a different story. My answer never changed. So, The Little Red Hen it was.
Before my Nook, I bought books…lots of books. A few years ago I turned a linen closet into a book closet, thanks to Pinterest. I organized the bookshelves into categories: Classics. Fiction. Non-fiction. Romance. Historical. But one book was missing. In fact, until recently, it never dawned on me to include this little piece of childhood memorabilia into my collection. On a recent trip to Walmart, fate led me to the book. Naturally, the cover has been updated from what I remember. But, nonetheless, there she was!
I couldn’t help myself. I had to do it. I picked up the book and began to read. But, I didn’t read The Little Red Hen through the eyes of who I am today, a middle-aged woman, but through the eyes of the child that I once was. With the turn of every page, it was not my voice that I heard inside of my head, but that of my mother’s. The woman of today traveled back through the decades to reunite with the little girl of yesterday. The reunion was bittersweet.
These days conversations with my mother are difficult. When I’m with her, I keep it simple. We talk about the weather, how much she loves her new home, and how friendly the other residents are. Mom remembers history; so, I ventured a bit the other day to see if she remembered my beloved little red hen. I knew it may be a stretch for her, but I was pleasantly pleased when she connected. Our conversation went like this:
Me: Do you remember a story about a little red hen? You read it to me when I was little.
Mom looked at me. Her eyes brightened, and her smile widened.
Mom: Yes, I do! Trish loved that story. Have you ever heard it?
Me: Yes, I have. It was my favorite.
At that precise moment, I knew that I had something we could talk about. In unison, Mom and I repositioned ourselves and faced each other. The little red hen took her back in time, and I went with her. She told me how she read the story to Trish every night. Her eyes sparkled as she shared her memories of me with me.
“Trish didn’t want to hear anything else,” Mom said. “I wore that book out,” she laughed.
She continues to tell me about the story. It feels good to witness my mother’s memory being restored, if only momentarily. Most days, Mom thinks of me as a nice lady who visits her. Sometimes she tells me that she guesses Trish is busy working. When I don’t know how to respond, I let her know how much Trish loves her and what a wonderful mother she is to Trish. Mom doesn’t say much when I tell her of my love for her. But, she says enough when she looks at me and says, “I love her, too.”