I told four of the grandsons, ages 3 to 5, a story before bed time.
I learned a long time ago, the hard way, you don’t tell a scary story to small boys, UNLESS you’re camping and you have to sleep in the same tent with them. Then, any old ghost, alien or crazy wild flesh-eating bear story will scare the living bejeebers out of them. Afterwards, you can go soundly to sleep in the tent while in silent terror they stare wide-eyed listening intently for any ghostly rattles, spaceships or bears creeping through the woods.
This wasn’t such a time, so story time was about four boys with names that rhymed with their own. They were just amazed how the names seemed so much like their own. 😉
The story was about a submarine adventure in the Gulf of Mexico. The four boys were looking for sunken pirate treasure.
Instead, they found a sunken K-Mart cargo ship full of copper forks, tambourines and a miniature cannon. A giant octopus caught the submarine but the four boys blew it up with their only torpedo which attracted a school of huge, submarine eating sharks. Fortunately, a herd of giant seahorses ridden by chimpanzees wearing scuba gear started fighting the sharks. The boys were able to slip away in the submarine, and when they got back on shore, sell the canon to a museum. The rest of the afternoon, the four boys played the tambourines and sang Take Me Out To The Ballgame on the beach making lots of money in tips – that’s the gist of it —
Nighty, nights were exchanged and I made it quietly down the stairs. My PawPaw work was done!!
Except, they didn’t go to sleep.
They talked. They played. They laughed. They fought.
A Mama went upstairs…then both Mamas went upstairs.
Then Daddy went upstairs, who wisely decided it was his own nighty night time and went to sleep downstairs.
I was laying on the couch like one of the chimpanzees riding a gigantic seahorse when J.J. (my wife, Janet) came and called me by my Grandparent name, “PawPaw”. (That’s never a good sign.) She said “our grandsons” were still awake, making noise and the parents had already been up there. J.J. is very kind, but she does have her teacher voice when needed, but I told her I would fly solo on this assignment.
I started up the stairs and at the top sat a 3-year-old grandson writing in a coloring book. On a top bunk was another 3-year-old having a private conversation with a stuffed animal. One 5-year old was also coloring, while the other was on the bottom bunk laying flat on his back trying to touch his feet on the bunk above him while talking as loud as he could without officially calling it yelling.
The inmates had taken over the asylum!
Nice and instruction hadn’t worked, so now it was time for another tool, Tasmanian devil with G.I Joe demands.
Deep breath, first… now, get into character…
I snapped my fingers and barked off all four names making sure not to use the similar story time name. Military style orders began flowing and I sergeant ordered the new recruits to lay down like innocent little angels or scared little devils, take your pick, and go to sleep.
“Put those colors up! Get in that bed! Quit that talking! Close your eyes!!”
Coloring books flew while eight legs and four pairs of Underoos began scrambling into bunk beds. Within seconds, little blankies were all snatched up to their shoulders because there was no more messing around with bed time.
I wanted to laugh, but didn’t. You know, you just can’t smile when you’re being the “bad guy” or it ruins the effect. I gave each a raised eye brow librarian look to keep them quiet before laying down myself on the floor between the bunk beds.
I could have sworn I heard raindrops still dripping after I rained on their parade, but then there was quiet. The only noise was their mamas and J.J. quietly talking downstairs with occasional laughter in unison.
A few minutes later, the youngest began breathing deep, regular breaths with a little snore eking out at times. One by one I heard each relax as the Sandman did his thing. By the time the last one went to sleep, there was a chorus of four little deep breathing machines harmonized by a little whistle to the right and a sip snore to the left.
I laid listening to the slumbering chorus and sweet chatter downstairs. I want to remember that moment, remember this time. I want to can it and not forget.
It’s the stuff memories are made of. It’s home. It’s where your story starts, where we begin. It’s where we plant our roots, spread our branches, and reach for the daylight, until the day when night eventually falls and takes us away.
I hope you get to hear children sleep upstairs and sweet conversations downstairs. I hope you get to admire coloring book work the next morning, even when it’s done after bedtime. I hope you can ask what the conversation with a stuffed animal was about.
May you be fortunate enough to be able to write upon the heart of a child, and even more, be a part of their story. It’s where memories are made. It’s where roots are planted, nourished and grow deep into the fertile soil of life. One day, they too can pass on sweet memories to their children, grandchildren, and children’s children’s children.
May you be blessed to continue to write your story, while helping the little ones start theirs on a solid foundation! Make it count, and along the way, stop on the beach to sing songs with four boys playing tambourines they found in a sunken K-Mart ship. You never know. Anything’s possible!