Bedtime, that impressionable time between wakefulness and dreamland, consciousness and sub consciousness…
Were you fortunate enough to have been indulged as a child with the bedtime ritual of bedtime stories? I was. I do not know how ‘normal’ my experience was, but it was certainly memorable.
When our evening routine was on track, un-interrupted by holidays, late evenings out or being too tired to stay awake for the telling, my mother or father would be the teller of the tales that ushered me off to sleep.
Mom would either tell stories she’d made up herself, usually stories of woodland animals and the carryings on in their realm, or read one of the many Beatrix Potter tales we were forever taking out of the local library. There were adventures of Hooty Owl and Jimmy Crow and countless other squirrels, birds and their other furred and feathered friends, all part of an involved, spanned-out series, Mom created. The Beatrix Potter tales were the beginning of a lifelong fascination for me, with that author/illustrator and her inspiring life story.
When Dad told bedtime stories, they were not entirely mainstream tales. He enjoyed the classic poems by Tennyson, Poe and Coleridge. Our tickets to dreamland were lines from Gunga Din, The Raven, Charge of the Light Brigade, Rime of the Ancient Mariner…. Dad has a rich and resounding reading voice and brought those characters to life. I would slip into the folds of the blankets with …”Nevermore”… ringing in my ears or …”and not a drop to drink”… It’s no wonder I didn’t have dark and raging nightmares every night but instead, my dreams were generally adventurous and colorful.
When Dad read, it was often from a book his father had as a child, Palmer Cox’s The Brownies, Their Book. That book was large and brown leather bound, a real family treasure. I never failed to be amazed at how mischievous those little sprites could be and the amount of trouble they would cause. My brother and I never tired of hearing about those ornery urchins. (For more about my brother Jon’s perspective on this, please see his blog gointothelight.wordpress.com
Another treat, read from a book, was The Night Before Christmasby Clement C. Moore. It would only be read on Christmas Eve and was anticipated all year long. The way Dad read that story, it was full of wonder and magic. It left such an impression on me, that as a teenager, years after the night time stories had ceased, one Christmas Eve, I asked Dad to read it again. Since then, it has become a Christmas Eve tradition in our family, and every year, Dad still reads this book, evoking countless memories and visions.
We lived in Northern Vermont when I was growing up and sometimes Dad felt imaginative and made up stories about the Loup Garou, or Were Wolves, those devil beasts that came from Canada, just over the border and reined terror on the New England states to the south. My mother frowned on these stories so we only heard them when she was occupied elsewhere out of hearing and Dad could be coaxed to tell these darks tales in hushed tones with the light down very low….
When I visited my Grandparents in New Hampshire, a couple of times a year at least, my Grandmother would recite poems from A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh series. One of her favorites was Nanny’s Dressing Gown, “I can see Nanny’s dressing–gownon the door. It’s a beautiful blue …”.
So, I guess my bedtime story experiences were not typical, but they will always be some of my most cherished memories.