As she does every night, Abigail made sure her babies were put to bed.
She has quite a few babies. And a large number of other friends, who come in the form of a blue otter, a very odd monkey that crinkles and wears a fez, cats in several shades, a pink dachshund and any number of other critters. Most of them sleep in a large basket that Abigail actually inhabited when she was a baby. The others rest in what used to be Henry and Limbo’s cat beds, now converted to a higher purpose.
She covers them all with blankets, takes turns praising them and admonishing them, and then sends them off to sleep.
Oh, and Bengal is turned over onto his back and another blanket is laid over him. He’s much too big for the basket, you see.
We read four books tonight. It was only supposed to be three: Hondo and Fabian, Caps for Sale and Hop on Pop. However, when Hop on Pop came up, she declared that we had to read one more. I asked her which one she wanted.
“I don’t want … I don’t like …,” she muttered to herself. I didn’t say anything as she zeroed in on it.
“He doesn’t like … Green Eggs and Ham.” She announced at last. I can’t tell you how much I loved watching her thought process play out like that.
After we finished that last book, we had to go over the train section a couple times. She rightly had concerns over its route.
Once we were done with the last book, I switched off the light and turned on her star turtle, like I do every night. I thought she’d roll over and go to sleep right away, which is always the height of awesomelyness (It is a word. Shut up.) at bedtime. However, after a few minutes, she rolled over and started checking out my face. By which I mean, with her hands. I took off my glasses to let her do this. There were rules, however.
“Don’t stick your fingers in other people’s noses, honey.” She’d managed a quick stab into both nostrils, declaring each time that there was snot.
“Because people don’t like that.”
A little later, she asked, “What’s your name, Daddy? Is it Owex?”
I ignored her for a moment and then after she pressed (She can really press. It’s a talent.) agreed that, yes, it was Owex. And it went on like this for a while. Sleep is never a gentle process for Abigail, except on days of highest awesomelyness. She fights sleep like a mortal enemy, her hands fidgeting, her mind clearly racing for the next thing. It sounds familiar. I expect to find her reading by flashlight under her covers some day in the not too distant future. I got away with that far more often than I got caught.
This all just seems like a big ramble at this point, since I have written myself into a story with no ending. I mean, we needed Momma’s help to get Abigail to bed tonight, so it was actually a pretty tough bedtime. But I still really enjoyed my time with her. Watching the way she interacts with the world is engrossing.
There’s a time-honored tradition of storytelling in my family. Well, at the very least, my father did a lot of it. We would ask him for a story and he’d make one up on the spot, almost always a tale of his childhood. The kicker was that my brother and I would be able to pick the setting, the cast and the major plot points, often as he went along. So, if halfway through, we wanted to know if they had to parachute out of the plane, my dad would just say, “it turns out we did,” and he’d have to figure out where they landed and how to make the original story work with the changes. Not too different from being a Hollywood script writer, really.
So we’d listen to the adventures we had with his friends “Skinny” O’Detts, “Washbucket” Miller and “Fats” Malone. Oh, and Mike. Dad never had a nickname, which we never caught on to until late in the game.
So this week I’ve started this tradition up with Abigail. She wasn’t interested in reading books tonight, so I decided I’d make up a story for her. She’s not so good at offering plot points yet, but I think she’ll get the idea soon. This story was about her stuffed tiger, Bengal, and how he spent his childhood. I set the scene and Abigail helped me choose another animal to be involved. Alligators were rejected right off the bat, but we eventually settled on an otter.
Here’s how it more or less unfolded:
When Bengal was a tiny tiger cub he lived in a cave in the jungle with his Momma and his four brothers and sisters. Their cave was next to a pond and Bengal would dive in, trying to catch the fish in his strong jaws. But they were too fast for him and they’d swim – swoosh! – away from him.
There was an otter who lived in the pond and he saw Bengal trying to fish. The otter was very old and he couldn’t swim all the way to the bottom any more. He said to Bengal, “If you go to the bottom and bring back some clams and oysters (this was a very special jungle) I will catch you some fish.”
Bengal thought this sounded like a good idea so he took some deep breaths and swam to the bottom. He found some clams and oysters and used his sharp claws to pull them off the rocks. Then he swam back to the top and gave them to the otter.
The otter was so happy that he ate the clams and oysters right away, before diving into the water to catch fish for Bengal. The fish were still fast, but the otter could swoosh, too, and he caught a few and brought them back to Bengal.
Bengal said thanks, and then put the fishin his mouth and swam to shore. That night, he shared his fish with his Momma and his four brothers and sisters and they all slept well with their full bellies.