The first book I read to our son was a thick paged cardboard series made up of common images: dog, cat, ball, apple. It was white against black, and he loved it. The starkness against the shiny pitch, it kept his gaze. We first shared it on the night he was born. I kept on reading him to him, and then when his two brothers came along, I read to all three of them together. Every night of their lives since I first held them.
Some of our books were finished over a month, reading a chapter a night. The Boxcar Kids were a big hit. The one that really tried our patience but I was determined to get through it, was the Wizard of Oz. You'd be surprised just how different the book is from the Judy Garland movie we've all seen.
I always read to my kids, they'd cushion themselves around me, one would wrap himself around the top of my head, and we'd read a book before they'd go to bed.
It was an easy way to get them to fall asleep without a fight.
The stories we read were what made up our nights: a snack, a warm bath, pajamas, tooth brushing, and then under the blankets, pillows piled up and around, and headed for a good night story.
Then one night my 7th grade son went to bed. He went upstairs, shouted down to us that he was going to sleep.
"Sleep good, baby," I shouted back to him, thinking he was just that tired out. The next few nights, he did the same. I wasn't sure whether to ask him about it or not, so I didn't.
I was down to two around me for a story, but then the middle guy started to feel out of place without the older guy around, so he started going up to bed without a story, too.
That left me with our youngest.
"Hey," I asked him when he was leaning in under my arm one night at bedtime. "How do you feel about keeping on reading our stories, without your brothers?"
"I like it, mom. I was kind of feeling they were too old too. But I never said anything. But I don't understand how they can give up the stories just like that. You're such a good story reader to us."
"Do you think I should ask them why, honey?" I really wanted to know.
"No. They'll feel guilty. When it's your mom, you always feel like she'll cry about it."
"Yeah, you're right." I laughed at that part, because the truth is funny. I would probably cry if I asked them.
The older ones knew when it was time to be done with that part of our life together, the youngest one knew just where he still wanted to be.
Right now, I'm ready to read my nightly book. I don't read to any of them anymore. I'm here, under a blanket with a pillow behind me. And wishing I would have known that the last time I read to all of them, that I would have known, it was the last time.
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