rituals: story-memories (hannah vanderpool).

Friends, we have a full year lined up for you, and TODAY is the first official-official day of guest post writing (since my words last week only half-counted).  Because this year we’re looking at RITUALS, those boring rituals that make the story deeper.  Hannah is an internet friend whose wisdom I’ve grown to covet and love – and her morning’s picture of normalcy, with books and coffee and children beside, is going to stay with you.  So, enjoy.  

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Flickr Creative Commons: Brittney Lynne.

It’s 9:00 a.m. I’ve been up for a while, first with a giant mug of black coffee and my Bible, then with the laptop open, saving thoughts for tomorrow. The kids woke up an hour ago. They’ve made themselves breakfast and are talking in sleep-thick voices. They learn at home, and they know not to disturb the teacher before she’s ready. But by now I’ve had my second cup of coffee and am ready to do, today, what I did yesterday, and the day before that: call the kids into the living room and open the stack of books beside the gray chair.

Every day it’s the same, whether we have an early morning orthodontic appointment or know a math test is looming. We gather, and I readpoems, mostly, and a chapter of a novel. The kids have long been able to read on their own, and they do (it’s normal to find them sequestered in various bedrooms with their dog-eared copies of Harry Potter and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe). But I read to them anyway because it’s this ritual that makes the day feel right. It’s when we gather like this, when we enter other worlds together, that we feel we’re a part of a grander, more interesting narrative than our daily grind would lead us to believe.

If I’m honest, I have to admit that I don’t always want to break up our day with such slow, luxurious forays into the imaginary, not when I think of all the things we could be doing, things like bed-making and worksheet-filling. Sometimes I wonder if the fact that my oldest son’s voice is wonky, and that he wears deodorant, are signs that this lolling on the couch is overkill, like spoon-feeding a six-year-old. Then, too, I think about how we all read faster when we’re doing it alone.

But I keep going because I can’t shake the belief that Langston Hughes has something to teach us about the miracle of meaning, because Carl Sandburg says things we don’t yet know how to say. I do it because Old Yeller makes us feel something, keeps our hearts a little raw. Because when we turn pages and cry for a boy who kills his dog, it buys us a moment to grieve for everything else that’s wrong in the world. Finally, I keep going because I believe these lessons are meant to be shared, the words, to be heard and not just savored in the privacy of our own minds.  

I know that days like this are melting away fast. Right now, the boys prepare themselves to listen, stretching like young lions on the couches and covering themselves with Afghans. Their feet stick out the ends of the blankets, and I notice that my middle son has a hole in his sock (when did his feet get so big?). All of them are growing faster these days than I can ever remember, except, maybe, when they were babies. We have a little time left, a few more years when we all wake up under the same roof.

And then one morning I’ll read by myself again. I’ll sit in silence in the gray chair with the dogs curled at my feet. I’ll look up from my page once in a while and wish that I had the kids with me so we could argue about an interesting bit in chapter seven or sit in silence after a razor-sharp poem. But then I’ll remember that we already lived a thousand lives together. We went on a hundred journeys, were shipwrecked, imprisoned, and rescued together. We cheered our favorite heroes and mourned inevitable deaths. We’ll have our story-memories. This is what I tell myself.

My hope is that this bookish way of marking the days will have helped to weave our own stories brighter, will have threaded them into something deeper, somehow. There’s always so much to do, and many days I wonder if we’ll ever get it all done. But I’m sticking with our reading ritual for another day. This morning, I’m choosing to believe that, whatever else happens in our lives, there’s time enough for stories.

Photo on 4-18-14 at 12.08 PM #2Hannah Vanderpool is a writer, a former ex-pat, and a homeschooler of three interesting middle-schoolers.  You can connect with her on Twitter or at visit her blog.  So, is this something you do in your house too?  Are words and story-memories and cups of coffee part of your morning ritual as well?  Leave a comment and encourage Hannah below!

15 thoughts on “rituals: story-memories (hannah vanderpool).

  1. Inspiring!! I’m gonna love this year Cara!! I already feel ready to try new things and it’s only the first week!! 🙂 Thank you Hannah for sharing your beautiful ritual.

  2. “I’ll look up from my page once in a while and wish that I had the kids with me…But then I’ll remember that we already lived a thousand lives together.”
    Gorgeous and true. You’ve brought tears to my eyes this morning. Thank you for the reminder of the power of the stories we share with the young souls around us. There might not be anything more powerful in childhood.

  3. Hannah, I think most people never really outgrow wanting to be read to. Some might think it childish and avoid it for that reason, but it’s not really childish. it’s normal. Almost everyone loves story for story’s sake. Your sons will remember these days and those memories will warm their hearts.

    1. Tim (and Hannah), agreed! One of my fondest memories from teaching was reading Tuesdays with Morrie to a classroom full of seniors right after the lunch hour. There was no other way to calm them down but that book …it worked! Oh, the power of storytelling, and of being read to!

      Cara Meredith

      writer, speaker, musician. carameredith.com

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