“ . . . Goodnight mush
And goodnight to the old lady whispering “hush”
Good night noises everywhere”–Margaret Wise Brown from the book, Goodnight Moon, illustrated by Clement Hurd
When my daughter, Madelyn, aka “Maddie,” was a toddler, she had several favorite books with which she played, banged, tugged, and, eventually, pretended to read. One of those favorite titles was Margaret Wise Brown’s, Goodnight Moon. Of course, as with most children, we went through several phases of “favorite books” that were the bedtime default for, “one more story,” before lights were out. However, Goodnight Moon was an on again, off again favorite for a couple of years. There is a reason this 1947 classic children’s story has sold millions of copies and has been translated into numerous languages.
I was reflecting upon those sweet, long ago reading-bedtime-stories-memories and comparing those times within the current context as I made my way through Ritter Park on what was my final week day workout of the summer . . .
Maddie in her extra soft jammies, smelling mildly of soap, her hair slightly damp, her skin soft, pink, and warm, as she wriggled a little closer, imploring me to read, “one more story.” Reaching for Goodnight Moon for what felt like the thousandth time, I would often change the words of the story to reflect our house, her bedroom, and her surroundings, creating a more personal narrative. Quite often, Maddie would join in with her own improvisation as well.
Reading to my daughter is one of those memories that brings tears to my eyes because time seems to have transpired so swiftly. It feels as if only last week that I was reading those stories, and numerous others, with her. I didn’t realize then, that as quickly as those page-turning moments were occurring, they were likewise being replaced in the same way Maddie’s bedtime books were changing and evolving. The time of childhood kept moving forward like the plot of her stories. For unlike her storybooks that could be paused or stopped by simply closing the book, time did not then, nor does not now, allow me to stop the story of life from progressing. Goodnight, Maddie, as a toddler.
Miss Maddie grew, and with every page turn of life came a new image, a new stage, a new way of saying goodnight. Giggle-filled toddlerhood seamlessly turned into the carefree days of preschool age, and soon enough the plot evolved into the pleasant days of kindergarten. As life progressed, cheery days of elementary years were followed by those angsty years of middle school. Next came the plot-twists that belong to the high school years. Presently, a new page has been turned, with more COVID-related turn-of-events occurring that continue to promote both her personal and academic growth as she makes her way through the challenging college years, especially within today’s state-of-affairs.
Time just keeps cascading, drumming along, pattering out rhythmic beats of memories. These snapshot moments of life with our daughter are like the bubbles she created in those early bygone years. Maddie would blow the bubbles into life and then chase those bubbles, trying to “catch” them, but bubbles tend to pop when you try to grasp them. Instead bubbles are best enjoyed while savoring the creation of each one and then enjoying their flight as they glide through air as shiny kaleidoscopes of joyful color. However, like my toddler daughter of all those years ago, we often give chase to life, trying to hold onto bubble-like moments of the past or bubbles that might be created in the future, often unaware that current bubbles of life-moments are floating within our view with little personal awareness.
In some ways, though the pandemic has forced many of us to be more aware of the preciousness of life. When life as we knew it, came to a screeching halt, or at the very least, drastically slowed down, time spent driving hither and thither was reduced to a bare minimum. Spending most, to nearly all, of your time at home became the new normal. The hands of life’s clock tick-tocked to the same rhythm, and yet, felt s-l-o-w-e-r. Working from home in comfy clothes was the new cool. John, Maddie, and me, like many that were lucky enough to remain employed or in school, worked from our home battling for wifi and dealing with the imperfection technology; and, truth-be-told, imperfect people since neither John nor I are tech savvy. Somehow, though, we managed to keep turning those pages of work, school, and life, but it was different, and it seemed to revive the age-old theme for the desire of work-life balance and the importance of spending time with family and loved ones.
Now, as we return to new variations and designs of our work worlds, I have to wonder/worry if we are returning to the proverbial rat race. While there were, and continue to be, many negatives of living with COVID-19, there were (and are) advantages to quarantining at home. One of my big takeaways from the experience is that growing desire to strike a greater balance between work life, family, and time spent in meaningful, personal pursuits and/or expressions. COVID has revealed there is more to life than career, and there is likewise much value in time spent with people. While being able to financially support oneself is important, COVID has repeatedly reminded me, and many others, that our time on earth is like those bubbles of Maddie’s youth, elusive, colorful, but short-lived. I want time to create and savor more meaningful bubbles of life moments.
As I continued down memory lane on that Ritter Park run of last week, I was reminded of the certain situations for which I am/was happy to say goodbye and others for which I am/was glad to say hello with regards to COVID, quarantine, and working from home as well as the positives and negatives of returning to work (school), albeit, with a new way of working and thinking about education and work-life in general. In my head, Maddie’s Goodnight Moon’s simple verse informed thought bubbles of random rhymes and personal prose . . .
On a great big earth
There was a virus
And a numerous people of worth
And a picture of–
Distractions of media birth
And there were numerous world leaders sitting on chairs
And there were markets
And there were targets
And people were moving
And the bug was stewing
And there was more spread that grew in a rush
And there were even some men who were proclaiming, “hush”
Goodnight need for much fuel
Goodnight countless people of worth
Hello time at home
Hello extra family time
Hello singing wind chime
Hello work from the table
Hello time for evening cable
Hello bedtime at dark
Hello paths of local parks
Hello time spent in nature
Hello medical danger
Hello life with COVID-19
Hello people on a virtual scene
Goodbye summer months that went by fast
Hello school bells ringing at last
Hello to the students I will see
Hello to the in-person teacher I will be
Goodbye warm lunch peacefully eaten alone.
Goodbye work from home
Hello continued work-friend, Google Chrome
Goodbye quarantine that abounds
Hello, the virus is still around
Hello to spaced out chairs
Hello to continued and fervent prayers
Goodbye work day morning run
Goodbye savoring dawn’s sun
And there’s still no goodbye to men proclaiming, “hush”
Goodbye, my growing green plants
Goodbye quarantine life . . .
May this school year and fall
be safe for all