The last week or so has been a good time for reminiscing, as it often is when I come home. Mark's home now, too, which is a wonderful blessing, but he's not really one for reminiscing.
I've been reading through the Rose Wilder books, the series that follows the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote Little House on the Prairie. Almost everyone read those books growing up, right? My friend Courtney in Yakima never did, and that just makes me sad. Those books were an integral part of my childhood, with my mom reading them aloud, and then being able to read them myself. The Rose books, too. I'm flying through them, remember how attached I was to the characters when I was little.
We also pulled out some old cassette tapes — the Wee Sing tapes and Discovery Toys tapes and, best of all, the lullaby tapes I used to fall asleep to. "Sleepytime Tunes" and "Lullaby Magic" are the two that I remember the most. Just listening to them sends almost a little shiver through me. They always used to help me sleep, and I remember pulling them out even when I was quite a bit older (still in elementary school) and listening to them. "Wynken, Blynken and Nod" and "Goodnight, My Someone" ... hearing them is so strange, like it's echoing very far back in my memory.
But all this reminiscing has a point, kind of. The twins that I'll soon be living with, Chris & Drew, talk more about families and kids and marriage than anyone my age. It's very weird, these two young guys, who look like they could be frat boys or something, talking about what kind of father they want to be one day. But it's interesting. Chris asked me once what I'll want to pass on from my family to my own kids, and it's a question I keep coming back to. For a long time, I was staunchly opposed to kids, and I still go back and forth on that. I want to be able to be selfish, and travel the world, and not worry about uprooting someone ... plus there's the whole needing-to-find-a-husband thing, and what if my kids come out stupid, and the whole having them thing that would suck majorly and is really the most disgusting thing in the world (yes, I refused to watch the video that day in health class; anyone who says birth is a beautiful thing is a big fat liar, or suffering from memory loss), so the likelihood of me having kids ever is very much up in the air.
But I do like to think about what I would pass on, and recently I've been thinking that the songs and stories of my childhood are the most important legacy I have. All the nursery rhymes, all the folk songs, the "Oh, Susanna"s and the "Old King Cole"s and the "Little old woman who lived in a shoe"s and the "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie"s and all of those — things that probably most kids today don't know. I think about the girl I mentor in Yakima, and her little brothers, and they just have no way of knowing all those stories that I grew up with.
We listened to those songs over and over again, on tapes in the car, and in little cassette players at home; I listened to storybooks on tape for hours, and we sang the songs all the time. If I am a good writer, it's because I was a reader from a very early age; if I am musical, it's because we always, always had music around growing up. Now, I wasn't raised listening to the Beatles, or anything famous, but we always had songs. And all those old stories — the American tall tales, the Paul Bunyans and John Henrys and Johnny Appleseeds — those are things I would want my kids to know about, too.
In the Rose books, the author talks a lot about how much Rose loves reading, and how much she loves storytelling. Storytelling is something I want to work on. If I ever have kids, I want to have stories that I make up and tell every evening, stories that make their eyes go wide and that they want to hear again and again. Not storybook stories, but stories that I make up all my own — or stories from my own life that they want to listen to. It's just so important, that oral tradition. I still hope to someday have my dad just talk into a recorder for hours on end, telling about growing up on a farm and doing rodeo and all the other bygone-era kind of stories that he's told me in pieces over the years.
If I have kids, I don't want them to be glued to various screens. For one, they will never have video games, even thought they'll probably be implanted in their brains via computer chip by then; I still hold that video games were the worst parenting decision my folks ever made for Mark, and I blame Call of Duty for his ever going into the Marines in the first place.
No, if I have kids, they're going to read. From the day they're born, I'll read them stories; they'll start out with Dick & Jane, like I did, and fairy tales, and Arabian Nights, and Little House on the Prairie, and Nancy Drew, and Beverly Cleary, and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and Pippi Longstocking, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and E. Nesbit, and Harry Potter, and everything else that fires up the imagination. And they're going to play outside, pretending to be pirates and bandits and explorers, and they're going to tear up the garden when they play safari, and they'll build forts from old refrigerator boxes and go barefoot all summer long. That way their brains won't be mush from watching TV or playing mindless video games for hours on end, and they'll have good stories to tell their own kids when they're grown up.
In Eight Cousins, Archie quotes someone as saying that "A love of good books is the best safeguard a man can have." Word, Arch. Word.
2 months ago