Sunday, June 25, 2006

Often I tell stories to the kids in math class while I’m erasing the overhead scroll to make room for more class notes.  Usually the stories are short and not really stories but just little anecdotes or cautionary tales, snippets from my past.

With the senior Calculus math class this past year, I often didn’t know what story to tell, as they’d heard so many of my stories.  One day I came to the end of the blank space on the scroll, “Well, it looks like we’re out of space.  Normally, I have a story ready to go, but today I don’t.  Is there any story you want to hear?”

Most of the class didn’t have anything in mind.  But in the front row, Miss Holmes gave a big smile and said, “Tell us what it’s like when you put the boys to sleep.  What happens at bed time?”  Then she put her elbows on the desk and rested her chin on her hands and settled in for a story.

I thought to myself, that doesn’t sound like much to work from.  But I’ll give it a try.

“Well, here’s how it works at our house.” I said.

“Holly is all about patterns and routines for the boys.  She thinks it’s good for them to have daily verbal and musical cues for just about everything that happens.  There’s a song she sings before each meal is served that tells us all that it’s time to come to the table.

“Well, bedtime works like this:  First we read the boys a story.  We always have a very large pile of books from the library.  This week its stories with dogs in them.  I often read a story to Mark near bedtime, around 8:30 PM or so.  While I’m doing that, Holly goes and removes her contacts and puts on her glasses. Then while she’s brushing her teeth, Mark and I go in and brush teeth too.  I use one of the gadgety tooth brushes, Mark uses a dragon tooth brush.

“Then Holly goes to the piano room and starts playing the either an old folk tune from the big yellow book or an old church song or spiritual.  Mark runs in and sits on the piano bench with his mother.  Then eventually she starts playing, the final song of the evening, which is always the same, ‘Good night, Ma-ark, good night, Ma-ark, etc… using the tune from the Music Man, Goodnight Ladies.

“After that, Holly nurses Luke to sleep and I read one final story to Mark; usually a story from a bible story book or another book that Mark likes and has requested.

“Then comes the bed-time prayers, where Holly sticks her hand over and holds my hand and Mark’s hand.  Luke hasn’t learned to hold hands yet.  Usually I pray.”

“Then it’s time to go to sleep, but usually the boys can’t go to sleep, so Holly takes them out to the big black chair and sings them to sleep with songs out of the hold church hymnal my parents taught us to sing from.”

Then Miss Holmes smiled said, “That sounds rather idyllic.”

“Well,” I said, “sometimes it doesn’t work out so well.”  And I looked out the window kind of sadly,  “Sometimes, after Holly has sung and sung, then I have to take a turn.”