Last night, right before bed, T,. decided she wanted to count all the money she had in the new piggy bank my sister gave her for her birthday. I lay on my side in her bed, under her pink comforter, in the semi-stupor I've been in for some days now following this stomach bug, and waited for her to finish. She chatted on cheerfully to herself, counting out her wealth.
"Why don't you put it all back again?" I suggested to her sleepily.
She turned the bank over and began dropping the coins back in, one by one. They made a loud metallic sound when they hit the bottom.
"Just like little Sal!" T. said happily.
"Who?" I asked. Little Sal?
"Remember little Sal?" She paused. "Plink-plank-plunk?"
That was all I needed. Of course! Little Sal from Blueberries for Sal! It's been awhile since we last read the book, but I do know that the first time I read it to T. she must have been only two. Suddenly the thought of that image surfacing suddenly in T.'s head made me extremely happy. I sometimes wonder from time to time just how much of the stories I read to my kids will stay with them, in both their unconscious and conscious memories. Yet I know from my own personal experience that when I pick up an old and familiar book from my childhood days and open it, and begin to read, that the words on the page are astonishingly comforting and familiar--it's like looking again at a once-loved face long-forgotten, but still so well-known; or like tracing your finger again along etchings in wood you made as a child, years ago. Words and stories, and the pictures that accompany them have a way of imprinting themselves almost tangibly on our minds, so we will forever carry their associations with us through our own lives.
We humans are designed to be storytellers, after all. We love words, even if we don't know it, or even if we have learned to move too far away from them.
It begins with that first story you read to your little one, taking her onto your knees and folding your arms close around her. It begins with the child happily reciting plink-plank-plunk as she drops quarters into her piggy bank, or with your son who can at nine recite by heart the pages of a book you read together when he was three, and who falls asleep reading, the books open around him and on him and under him.
When her quarters were all safely back in her bank T. climbed into her bed next to me. She nestled her still-wet hair against my cheek and we picked up our latest read, an American Girl chapter book that is surprisingly (to me) good. I opened it and began reading, suddenly awake again and enjoying the sound of the words falling around us, plink-plank-plunk, like little treasures dropping, one by one, into a bank.