By Brett Buckner
The dude sitting outside the pizza place looked befuddled when he saw me and Jellybean coming. We weren’t dressed weird or anything; I was wearing the corporate uniform of a short-sleeved dress shirt and khaki Dockers, and Jellybean was wearing a flowery dress. Rather, it was what Jellybean bellowed when she hopped out of car.
“Daddy, don’t forget my ‘Book of Mormon.’”
Actually, she calls it her “Book of Norman,” but for clarity’s sake, let’s call it what it is: a worn-out, hardback version of the “Book of Mormon” that I picked up in a used bookstore that smelled suspiciously like cat pee. But for whatever reason, Jellybean is obsessed with it.
It’s strange to hear a 4-year-old request such reading material (unless she’s Mormon, or a political whack-ado looking for hidden plans for world domination lurking behind Mitt Romney’s faith … although the aforementioned whack-ados tend to be old enough to brush their own teeth and don’t worry about being eaten by “wooves”).
Nope, Jellybean likes the book for the same reason she carried a catalogue of KISS collectibles to her first day of children’s church; the child just loves books.
The story she was “reading” was more “Mickey and the Beanstalk” than Joseph Smith. She likes flipping the pages and pretending to read.
It’s a passion she comes by genetically. We’re a family of readers. I say this not to be a snob (though I’m often embarrassed for people who see me with a book and give me this look like I’m breastfeeding a llama before they confess, “I don’t read”).
When I dreamed of having of a family of my own, books were always part of the scenery.
Back when we’d have $20 in the checking account and a week until payday, if The Diva showed interest in a book I’d risk the overdraft charges and the wrath of My Lovely Wife just to encourage her reading habits.
And read The Diva did, tearing through the Harry Potter series and the Twilight trilogy at warp speed before Droid apps and boyfriend drama slowed her literary marathons.
The Diva reads the last chapter first to avoid surprises or sad endings. Right now, she’s reading Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” just because a teacher recommended it.
One of the things I loved most about My Lovely Wife was not just that she read, but that she read the biggest honkin’ books I’d ever seen. These tomes made Stephen King’s “The Stand” look like something out of Sweet Pickles. She still largely sticks to biographies about Henry VIII, Cleopatra or Mary Magdalene and historical fiction by Phillipa Gregory.
As for me, I like dark, violent, fast-paced thrillers, or books on the history of religion (which often includes a lot of the former).
Jellybean can’t read, but is fascinated with the idea of books. She has memorized passages from her favorites, including “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” and “Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom,” and incorporates them into her stories.
We take books in the car. We take books into restaurants. We read books at night — by flashlight, for reasons I can’t fully fathom. And Jellybean stays up “reading” long after she’s supposed to be asleep.
My Lovely Wife and I pretend not to notice … or at least not to mind. What kind of parents would we be if we denied our child the chance to read, even if it is the Book of “Norman”?
Brett Buckner is an award-winning freelance newspaper/magazine writer who was raised in Albany.