Friday, April 18, 2008


Yesterday evening, at around 7:30, my husband and I took a short drive. When I returned, the light on the phone was blinking. I called the number and the nice recording on the answering machine link told me I had missed two calls.

One was from my daughter and said she'd call back. I listened to the second message and bit my lip.

My husband came into the house. "What's wrong?" he said when he found me sitting at the table staring at the phone. "I'm not sure," I told him. "But we got a call from a very young child, a baby even. Just some sounds. The identity screen says it's a local wireless number... I'm going to call the number to make sure everything is okay."

He looked at me like I was nuts, but hey, we've been married a long time, so he shrugged.

I made the call. It was answered by a woman. I launched into my spiel. "You don't know me and I don't believe I know you, but I received a call from this number a bit ago. It was a child's voice though I couldn't understand anything he said, just some sounds ---"

The woman said, "Alice? This is Danita." (My name came up on her screen. She said later she thought I was telling a joke or putting her on so she waited through my explanation.)

Anyway, it turns out when Parker goes to sleep Danita jumps into the shower and it appears Dalton sometimes finds her cell phone and pushes buttons as fast as his little fingers can go and this time, I was the lucky recipient. The child had to wait through my message and then leave one of his own and you know, he did a good job. Other than that speech thing.

So, I got to talk to Danita and that is why I am doing this blog today for her as she is caught in new mother mode and probably will be for awhile. She sounded happy and well and says the children are doing great considering one is a newborn and the other has just landed in the land of TWO. She misses writing but knows it's just a matter of time.

Right after this, I went to watch TV and ended up finding THE NEVERENDING STORY. This is a children's story about a young boy who loses his mother and is told by his father to keep his feet on the ground. Hiding from some bullies, he finds a book by the title's name and he takes it into an attic to read. The little boy has an active imagination and soon finds this book is different from other books in that the he seems to become part of the story which is basically about saving the land of fantasy and imagination.

It's a sweet story, the little boy is adorable, and as I watched it I thought of Dalton and all the wonderful things ahead of him, and Parker, too. And given their mother's inevitable influence, is their little doubt that these two boys will know exactly how to help keep the land of imagination and dreams alive?

Here's to all the little boys and girls who know or will soon discover the thrill of opening a book and reading the first words, the words that take their hands and gently or not so gently, pull them into a world more alive than reality. Do you remember your first books? Your mother reading to you? Your children's first books and the ones you read to them? One of my fondest memories is reading a book called THE MAZE IN THE HEART OF THE CASTLE by Dorothy Gillman. Every night, my children would come sit on my bed and I would read them a chapter even though they knew how to read by themselves by then. And every night there would be a major chapter ending explosion and it was hard to stop and yet delicious to anticipate. The night the boy caught in a literal maze with a bunch of people also caught but resigned to stay there climbs the wall and then jumps off of it into a vast desert (i.e., thinks outside the box) we were all stunned.

The power of words is addictive and fascinating and has been such a huge part of my life. Another time, when computers didn't offer graphics, were just words, my kids and I played a game called Zork. Just words. Options, directions, trying to solve the puzzle with nothing but a black screen and a few questions -- a story game. At one point, we found some stairs to send the boy down and these words (more or less) flashed on the screen: "You are at the gate of hell." I shivered. They were profoundly frightening and unexpected. And though Zork evolved into future versions with pictures galore, it wasn't the same.

Words and children and imagination. I've got to go now. The phone is ringing. Maybe it's Dalton...


Genene Valleau said...

Geez, Alice, you really had me going with "The Call" title. But I was determined to guess who in our blog group had sold their first book -- then it wasn't that at all. An unexpected twist, just like a good story!

Very cute story, by the way. Glad Danita and her boys are doing well. (Waving hi, Danita!)

I don't remember stories my mom read to us, but she must have because I remember going to the library from a very young age and always having books to read.

What did I read to my kids? The classic fairy tales and Little Golden Books. Then the Transformers and other comic book style stories based on TV cartoons as they got older and their choices of what to read were different.

Love your memory of reading a chapter of a book to your kids each night, Alice. I should have insisted on doing that instead of letting my kids spend so much time with video games.

This was a feel-good blog! Thank you for a reminder of warm childhood memories, Alice.

Alice Sharpe said...

Yeah, Genene, I thought about the wisdom (or lack of it) of the title right as I hit publish. Maybe I should change it! No, your note will forewarn others... though everyone seems to be out and about this Friday morning so it's not a HUGE problem.

Anyway, my kids loved all the same things your kids loved and trust me, they did their fair share. Besides, you have grandchildren now, time to do things you might not have done too much before. My daughter recently read that same book with her kids and they loved it, too. In fact, we all had a lively discussion about it one afternoon. Amazing.

Thanks for responding...

Paty Jager said...

Great Blog, Alice! And that is soo funny that Dalton called you. He must have known you'd be concerned and call back! LOL

I've been out running errands all day. Not fun especially when one of the errands was delivering hay I had to unload and stack.

Anyway, I don't remember the exact book I read first, but when my brother who is a year older than me started school and was learning to read, I sat right beside him while Mom helped him each night and I was the only one in my kindergarten class that could read a first grade reader. I loved words from the moment I realized putting letters together made them.

I always had a book from either the school library or the city library. If I wasn't doing homework, chores, or riding my horse I was reading. I got in trouble a lot for reading with a flashlight on school nights.

I started reading to my kids as soon as they hit this world. I read the "Pokey Little Puppy" (oldest daughter's favorite) until I had it memorized as well as "The Happy Man and His Dump Truck" (oldest son's favorite) and Rainbow Bright (Younger daughter's favorite) Then as they became older, I let them sit in bed a half hour and read before the lights went out.

And all of them read to their kids before bedtime. I think it was tradition that is good for both the parents and the kids. It's a good bonding time and way to give the kids a wind down time.

I was wondering if we'd hear from Danita today. And we did in a round about way.

Thanks for a fun walk down memory lane, Alice!

Karen Duvall said...

Oh, Alice, The Never Ending Story is one of my favorite kid movies! And remember the princess at the end, the great nothing that was destroying all the land, and how all that was left was this tiny piece of sand the princess held in her palm? Sigh. What a great movie. My kids loved it, too. They'd watch it over and over.

Genene, like you, I don't remember my mom reading to me, though I know she must have. We made regular trips to the library. And I was a very slow learner when it came to reading. I liked to draw, not read, but I liked to tell stories. It wasn't until well into the first grade that reading finally clicked for me and I could associate the words with pictures I could create inside my mind. Awesome!

Rick Riordin, best selling author of the Percy Jackson series, is a mystery writer turned children's fiction writer. He made up a Greek myth to tell his son at bed time and his son, only 8 at the time, encouraged him to write it down. He did, and it became a best seller called The Lightning Thief.

I read to my kids all the time, and not just kids' books. I'd often read from whatever book I was reading for myself and they loved it. Dean Koontz was their favorite. 8^)

wavybrains said...

Love this post Alice!

The first time Tavy tried to turn a page in a book, it was like "Be still my heart!" I can't wait for her to be able to enjoy more of the stories and be able to participate more.

I've been taking her to storytime at the library, and that's been an absolute joy. At home, we're reading alot of the classics, but she got a book for Easter called" Baby Happy, Baby Sad" and it is a total hoot. I recommend it as a gift for other new parents/grandkids.

My mother read to us every night, even up through high school. We read a lot of series books--Little House on the Prairie, The Moffits, The Borrowers, Little Women. When I got older, we read other stuff--Fried Green Tomatoes, Anne Tyler, etc.

I'm so lucky to have her influence, and I plan to do the same thing--starting with picture books each day and then working up to chapter books and series.

Barbara said...

You sure have a gift for storytelling, Alice. Your post drew me right in and warmed my heart.

I remember my mother reading the little Golden Books to my sister and me before bed. "The Pokey Puppy" was my favorite; I also liked "The Little Engine That Could" and one about the three little kittens who lost their mittens.

I continued that tradition with my own son and read over a hundred full-length books to him and Jim. I even read "The Hobbit", but not The Ring Trilogy. I finally stopped reading aloud when my son wanted me to read all the Star Trek books; I decided it was time we each read the books we liked to ourselves before bed.

Then, years later, Jim and I took up reading aloud to each other again, starting with several years of biographies, then mysteries (especially cozies), and most recently Paty's "Perfectly Good Nanny."

No need to leave reading aloud to the kids--we can keep that pleasure in our lives at any age if we want.

Thanks for the memories, Alice!

Alice Sharpe said...

Oh, Paty, LOL, The Poky Little Puppy was a favorite at out house, too. I don't remember the story, but I sure remember reading it. There was a Golden Book called Diddly Daddly Duck when my daughter was little. I swear the mother duck was on welfare. I HATED that book and read it over and over and if I tried to skip a page, was corrected immediately because the darn kid had memorized it word for word.
LOL, good memories...

Alice Sharpe said...

Karen, yes, that one last glowing piece of sand cradled in her cupped hands and her saying, "As long as there's just this grain of sand, Fantasia will survive. use it to make a wish." And the kids asks how many wishes he gets and she tells him he can have as many as he wants, the more the better.


I have to look up the Lighting Thief. You read your kids Koontz? Too funny although I did share John D. Macdonald and other mystery writers with my son...

Alice Sharpe said...

Yes, Wavy, you are right at the beginning of all this fun! Tavy will love books, how could she not with you guiding her as your mother guided you.

I'm going to have to get a copy of the "Baby Happy, Baby Sad" book. Sounds fun. There's something about sharing a story, isn't there, no matter what our age. I remember my sister laying the bunk above mine and telling me stories long into the night. It's kind of funny that I turned out to be the story teller and she reads my books. I heard it first from her.

Alice Sharpe said...

Barbara -- Yes! The Little Engine that Could. I LOVED that book. It doesn't seem to me my kids liked it half as much as I did. I loved the picture of the toy car on the train and the rosy cheeked doll -- and the giraffe in the animal car... sigh. Memory lane.

My kids also loved those pick your own ending books. We were on a sailboat trip by the time these came out so the kids had lots and lots of reading time and those stories were a big hit. I wonder if kids read them any more.

I think it's wonderful that you and Jim read to each other. And isn't Perfectly Good Nanny a fun book!!!! I loved it.

Smiles all around, everyone.

Alice Sharpe said...

Oh, and Wavy, be sure you put me on speed dial in case Tavy wants to call...

Paty Jager said...

I hate to admit, but I've not seen The Never Ending Story. My kids watched it once and didn't like it. They are kind of like me that they like more real settings for stories. I've not been one for fantasy/sci-fi stuff and neither are they.

Wavy with your love of books there is no way Tavy isn't going to love them.

Barbara I'm glad you and Jim are enjoying my book and thanks Alice for that ego boost.

My neighbor bought my first two books. Which I was a little skeptical about her reading them and sure enough today she told me that while she liked the story she didn't approve of the racy stuff.

Alice Sharpe said...

Paty -- LOL, remember your audience. Your neighbor is NOT...

Elisabeth Naughton said...

LOL, Alice. Having a little one who likes to play with the phone, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about the call you received. I'm glad you did though and got to talk to Danita. ;) (When telemarketers call at dinner time, I've always been tempted to give the phone to the youngest Gremlin and let him happily babble away...)

I don't have a specific story that stands out in my mind from childhood. I know my mom has said she didn't read to me and my brothers like she should have (and she's a teacher, go figure). I have always enjoyed books though, and one of my favorite series was Anne of Green Gables. Loved those. And the CS Lewis books long before they were made into major motion pictures. I do remember my mom and I reading all of the Narnia books together.

I've always read to my kids. Our bedtime routine is me reading to the boys and the DH reading with the oldest. I'm especially pleased with that because she's reading chapter books these days and he is a non-reader. Not that he can't read, just that he doesn't read fiction for entertainment. In all the years we've been married he's picked up ONE fiction book to read. It was while we were on vacation in Mexico and I'd brought a stack of novels which I was happily digesting on the beach. Being bored, he wandered into the hotel's library and picked out a book for himself. A James Patterson - I bet we even still have it. Anyway, we're sitting on the beach and he looks over at me, smiles and says, "Guess what, hon? I'm on chapter 37!" He was so proud of himself. Of course, this is Patterson - who writes 1 and 2 pg chapters. I grinned, encouragingly, and said, "Good job, honey!" then went back to my book. Feeling smug he flipped to the end of the book, realized there were something like 148 chapters and closed it on a sigh. Never picked it up again. So to know he's the one who reads with the dd every night is pretty cool. (Though, hmmm...I'm not so sure he's enjoying such classics as "Nightmare on Hannah Street"...)

I think I got sidetracked. LOL. Great blog, Alice. (This is where I sheepishly admit I've never seen the Neverending Story either...)

Alice Sharpe said...

Eli -- I think letting the little one talk to telemarketers is brilliant.

And as I had wanted to talk to Danita and had been thinking about her a lot it seemed fortuitous in its own way.

I love that your none fiction reading husband is reading with you dd. You watch, they'll develop a bond that will last a lifetime.

And you and the boys will have your own time...

BTW, my dh started reading fiction after he retired. I was shocked! He reads me and he also reads all the mystery writers I've been collecting for 20+ years.

Alice Sharpe said...

Eli, please disregard the typos....

Danita Cahill said...

Thanks for filling in for me, Alice, and a fun way to tell about Dalton calling you. You didn't tell that the only people he's called before you have been grandparents, and his dad.

Anyway, books. My mom read to us often, especially during the daytime in the summer months. We especially loved the Mother West Wind Stories, which were chapter books, like the big kids read. I loved sitting on Mom's generous lap when I was little and snuggling my head against her collar bone. I could hear her lulling alto voice as she read, seemingly only to me, although I suppose my pesky little brothers gathered at her feet probably felt as though she were reading only to them.

My aunt read all the Winnie the pooh stories to my btoher and I. She could do the best voices for all the characters. Most memorable was her slow, lazy Eeore voice.

I read to my daughter when she was still in the womb. She came out loving to be read to, and i did so long after she could read herself. Then I had her read me the bedtime stories. She's not a huge reader these days, but she is an amazing writer.

I hope the boys grow to love the written word too. Dalton is just now sitting still through a book, although it has to have moveable parts -- lift-up flaps, removeable trucks or pop-up features to really hold his interest.

And Parker? At this point, I just appreciate it when he naps. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, for he sleeps great at night. I'm getting plenty of rest, just no opportunity during the daylight hours to read, write, or check the blog or emails.

Hope all is well. Sorry I've been a stranger. I'll be back. Probably as soon as I talk Rick into dragging the baby swing down out of the attic. Those things are great babysitters...

Lisa Pulliam said...

First, I wondered who sold. Then I wondered what awful thing had happened. Then I laughed until I had tears in my eyes, Dalton is adorable!!! Great story!!! Hahahahahaha!!!