In the midst of attempting to promote my new book and moving at the same time, I noticed a bit of stress. You might be thinking, “Duh!” and typically you’d be correct in that profound response. However, the sleeplessness and nerves are not happening to me. It’s my son.
He hasn’t been his normal energetic, fun loving self. He’s been waking up shortly after bedtime and curling up with my wife on the couch wanting to sleep in our bed. We’ve been trying to keep our nightly routine as regular as we can. We sing some Tom Waits and then read a chapter or two. He is usually asleep before the last few pages but I keep going hoping that my voice keeps him calm.
Over the years we’ve read fantasy and adventure books. We’ve read short stories and fairy tales. He loved “Ender’s Game” which of course made me very, very proud. He reminds me a lot of Ender. Smart, a deep strength of character with a wide open, loving heart. Two nights ago I decided to pull out another book that I loved when I was his age. Unfortunately after the first hundred pages or so, he lifted himself off the pillow and said, “Dad, I don’t really like this book. Can we read something else tomorrow?” A few minutes later he was back downstairs needing to hide under our covers again.
We got around to bedtime last night and he looked nervous. I’d been thinking about it all day and figured it was time to give it a try. I keep it on my desk at all times. The signature inside after twenty years remains bright red on the title page with a fancy swirl around the cartoonish space scene. It is one of my all time favorite books by one of the greatest Authors of the last century. Whenever I hear the term “Prized Possession”, this book always comes to the front of my mind.
We sang a few songs, made some jokes and laughed. I made sure the covers were pulled up and waited until he got himself comfortable. Then I read the words. The words so elegant and simple. The words that still brought that strange alien world to life. The words that changed the way I thought about everything. The words that split my life into two parts: The world BEFORE the words and the world AFTER the words.
My son sat up after the first page and I stopped reading.
“Dad. This is way better than the other book. The words are so amazing! I can really see why you love it so much.” I smiled hoping the tears wouldn’t blur my vision too much for me to continue.
“I’m glad you like it bud.”
“Yeah. Can we read some more?”
“The flame birds waited, like a bed of coals, glowing on the cool smooth sands. The white canopy ballooned on the night wind, flapping softly, tied by a thousand green ribbons to the birds.”
From “The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury
He stayed upstairs all night.
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