The End

There is something powerful about endings. Take books, for example. The ending of a story can fill you with an enormous sense of satisfaction — a feeling of yes, that was just right. Or, if it is a twisty-turny sort of ending, it can completely change your entire perspective on the book with just a few short words that flip everything on its head. And the thing about endings is, you never, ever know which way it is going to go until you get there.

Of course, when you are reading Gordon Korman’s “Titanic” trilogy, well… as my youngest sister told us when she spied the kids and I reading it together over our Christmas visit: “You do know it’s going to end badly, don’t you?”

Except… it didn’t. Yes, the ship sank. Yes, 1500 people lost their lives. But the series was (as almost everything we’ve read by Korman has proven to be) a most satisfying read.

So now we find ourselves at the end of 2011 and at the end of our current Korman trilogy and we are at a bit of a loose end. What to read aloud next?

When I asked K, he shrugged and immediately went back to the Hardy Boys novel he’s engrossed in. I would love to tell you which one, but every time I turn around, it’s a different one. He received quite a few for Christmas and he couldn’t be happier.

I asked B what she would like to read, but she just waved me off, engrossed in the Nancy Drew graphic novels she received. And the book on Degas and his art. And the book on birds. And the (absolutely fabulous!) pop-up book on birds and bird habitats that includes an audio recording for each habitat.

Is it possible that this marks the end of reading aloud together?

It has been a month of endings. The end of believing in tooth fairies and Easter bunnies and even — dare I say it? — Santa. The end of needing mom’s help to thread a needle. The end of needing dad’s help to cook yourself a grilled cheese sandwich. The end of needing help baking muffins, or cookies, or banana bread. The end of needing a grownup to supervise as you work through yet another science kit from the Young Scientist’s Club.

Endings can be healthy things. They mark a newfound independence, a powerful sense of accomplishment, and a boost in self-esteem. As a mama-bear, I am proud beyond belief, but while I am happy to head off to my little sewing area to work on a new crazy quilt block now that the Christmas crafting is finished, I often find myself drifting back to where they are, hovering just beyond arm’s reach, watching them enjoy being children of a certain age, wishing I could still join in, and marveling at the fact that they no longer need to wait on my availability to launch themselves into some new exploration.

I do miss our read-aloud story time. I do. I am definitely not ready for that to end. Not yet. Not now, and maybe not ever.

But the kids are ready, and that’s the main thing, isn’t it? That no matter what my desires are, our children have their own trails to blaze, and I cannot hold them back.

Except… every ending is, in fact, merely the beginning of something new, and this one is no exception. As we were reading the last few chapters of Titanic I paused, tired in voice and body, to suggest that we stop here for the day. The kids (who a bare half hour before had groaned and begged to keep playing on the Wii rather than read when I suggested it was time for our bedtime routine) were reluctant to end there, and in fact quite firmly refused. Instead, they took over the reading out loud and it was my turn to sit, sleepy and warm, wrapped in a blanket and all cozy by the fire, listening to their voices as the story came to its conclusion.

This beginning has, as beginnings tend to do, proven to be a new trend that shows every sign of continuing. We may not have picked out a book to read together, but every day it seems one child or another comes running to explain what they’ve been reading, catch me up on the story to date, and then read great passages aloud for us to share together. So far, I’ve been read pages and pages and pages about military aircraft, battles of long ago, futuristic scenarios featuring young girls on the run from their evil boarding school teachers, robotics and the history of computers, the much-loved Little House books, and of course the ubiquitous Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys.

I only ever get read a few paragraphs at a time — a taste, if you will, of the things that have captured my children’s interests — but it is enough to keep us connected. It is enough to keep the tradition of reading aloud alive. And who knows — perhaps in the new year, we will find a book we all agree on and I will sit and knit by the fire while my children entertain me with stories of far off places from long ago or future worlds of the imagination. Whatever happens, I know for sure that we will always share a love of books, now and for years to come.

Happy New Year!

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