Guess How Much I Love You

My great-niece was born last year, on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, and is my sister’s first grandchild. She lives in Israel with her parents (her mother is my niece) on a lovely kibbutz, not far from Haifa. In honor of her first birthday, her parents thoughtfully brought her to Florida to celebrate with her great- and great-great grandparents. Always up for crashing a party, I traveled south to join the fun.

In an attempt to buy a meaningful birthday gift and to facilitate my niece’s desire to ensure that her daughter speaks English in addition to Hebrew, I decided to visit Barnes & Noble. After all, Jews are people of The Book, right?

Recollections of reading to my once-little ones crept into my consciousness. Whether they were one and three or three and five, the pattern remained the same through the years. First there was dinnertime; then there was bath time; and then there was story time, followed by bedtime. Neither we as parents nor kids got sick of the routine. We truly enjoyed reading our favorites. Even when we all knew the words of every book by heart, we kept reading them; using different accents, inflections, and expressions that drew frequent giggles and laughter.

So, as I entered the store and headed for the children’s section; I knew exactly what I wanted to buy. I was in search of Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, Guess How Much I Love You, Where’s Spot?, and the Boynton books – The Going to Bed Book, Doggies, But Not the Hippopotamus, and Opposites. These were the books that we seemed to cherish, even more than the Dr. Seuss or Disney books. And, I wanted my great-niece and her parents to have the opportunity to build and share the great memories that my own family had created.

I purchased the books and, with excitement, sent a group text message to my family. I was in Florida, my daughter was in the library in college, my husband was in his office in Atlanta, and my son was in his office in New York City. The conversation went like this:

Me – “Look! Books for Hailey. All of our favorites!!!” (I sent individual pictures of all the book covers.)
My daughter – “Oh…Guess How Much I Love You!!”
Me – “From here to the moon and back.”
My daughter again – “OMG the bunny one!”
Me – “Here, have a carrot.”
My husband – “Woof. Bow wow wow. LOUD!! Quiet…”
Me – (A smiley face.)
My son – “Wait. You bought them new or you’re giving ours away?”
My son again – “Those better be new!”
Me – “Lol. They’re for her birthday. They’re new. I would never give ours away.”
My son again – “Good. I was about to be kinda pissed.”

I smiled. On the one hand, this chat was predictable. On the other hand, it confirmed what I already knew. Our books, our time together, and our memories were imprinted in our psyches. They are important to each of us for different reasons and in different ways, even though my husband and I are fifty-one, our daughter is twenty-one, and our son is twenty-three. I’m not surprised. After all, I still remember my father reading to a little me from Winnie the Pooh, “Chapter One, In Which….”

Until I can buy these same books again – hopefully for my own grandchildren next time – I’m glad that I’m the one who bought them for Hailey right now.

Happy birthday, Sweet Little One!

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