(I have been fully absorbed in the editing of my soon-to-be released book The Silenced Child so have had less time for my blog. I hope readers will enjoy this little vignette exemplifying the power of relationships)
This Thanksgiving, while discussing great works of toddler literature such as Big Red Barn with the parents of my 2-year-old cousin, I was pleased to discover I still could recite many of the words from memory. "Has he read Owl Babies?" I asked. When they said no, but that he loved owls, I offered to read it to him. I immediately located the book on the shelf of my now 21-year-old daughter's bedroom among the classic board book with which I will never part.
He settled into his mother's lap, nestled against her 5-month pregnant belly. The noise of the adult chatter around us faded to the background as the three of us became fully absorbed in both the telling and listening to the story. Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell, is a classic tale of attachment, loss, and love. Sister Sarah, brother Percy, and baby brother Bill are living happily in a tree with their owl mother. When one night they wake up to find her gone, they together find ways to manage their growing anxiety. "I think she's gone out hunting," practical Sarah suggests. To each stage of escalating worry, together with efforts to make sense of the situation, Bill repeats his refrain, "I want my mommy!"
The feelings of the story, and the memory of reading it to my own kids many years ago came back with intensity. I watched my little cousin, fully absorbed in rapt attention in the plight of the baby owls. While keeping the three of us together in the present moment of the drama by slowly and carefully reading every word, I looked both at his face and that of his mother. When Sarah suggests that all three siblings sit on one branch together, I thought simultaneously of my cousin's new sibling on the way, and how my now adult children support each other. When on the final page the mother returns with her reassuring "WHAT'S ALL THE FUSS?" I felt a flood of relief and joy along with my young audience.
While Sarah and Percy bravely deny that they had ever really been worried, Bill simply declares, "I love my mommy!" Both grown-ups had tears in our eyes, though I did not have the excuse my little cousin's mother offered of being "too pregnant for this." "May I read it again?" she asked. "Of course," I replied, and left them together to join the adult company.