The other evening, I was ridiculed by my wife for reading a takeout menu in bed just before the we turned the lights off. Laughing, she inquired, “Did your parents read menus to you at bedtime when you were a child?” Even though the options on this Asian menu were fascinating to me, admittedly, it probably looked a little silly. It did make me think about what they read to me at those impressionable ages. The stories certainly varied depending on the parent.
Most people believe reading to their children before bedtime is a key ingredient to their development. Even without having human children of our own, I tend to agree with that philosophy. Yet, it’s not just the reading, it’s that precious one on one attention you may receive before actually having sweet dreams or selective nightmares.
My mother would fall asleep reading me two pages of a Dr. Seuss book or two sentences of a Sesame Street novella. I watched her eyes droop while trying her best to complete a rhyme or reason. Who could blame her? She was awake at four o’clock in the morning doing laundry in the basement for eight to ten of her children, still remaining in the home, before they went to school.
When my mother drifted off while reading, I would creep into my father’s bedroom many nights hoping he would read to me. (At this point in their lives, my parents slept separately, because thirteen children were plenty.) After he worked his twelve hour shift, I knew he’d be in bed reading something to relieve his stress. It was never about a cat in a hat or Oscar being a grouch, and I didn’t care. With him working such long hours, it was the only time to be next to my father. My father’s bedtime reading was a little different from what my mom would choose to read to me. He would be reading about, amongst others, Al Capone or Babe Ruth, two of the most infamous and famous people in the world.
After my well received interruption, my father would proceed to read as I cuddled next to him. He would also delicately paraphrase… “And then, prohibition began and while men were massacred on Valentine’s Day, Capone never harmed any women or children.” Or, when speaking of The Babe, he might say, “Although he was known for his womanizing, immense drinking and voracious appetite for everything, he would sign autographs for any child wishing to receive one.” Stressing the positive rather than the negative, it made me feel at ease, wishing to take a trip to baseball’s Hall of Fame, followed by a journey through Alcatraz.
Depending on which book they held while reading to me, I would either fall asleep to dreams of calling my own home run shot, bipedal cats with gigantic hats, or nightmares of a Valentine’s Day massacre. These days, I simply wake up hungry.