It wasn’t until I looked up into the evening sky a few months ago that I realized I wouldn’t be reading Goodnight Moon to my son Graham, now ten, ever again. Actually, it had been years since we’d read the book. It just hadn’t sunk in until that night.
How often do we experience something in life for the last time? Regrettably, we rarely ever know until we look back and see that a chapter has silently ended and a new one begun without warning.
If only there were a flashing neon sign that lit up the sky or a buzzing alarm that sounded whenever a childhood ritual was ending. The neon letters would proclaim, “Take note of this experience. Enjoy. It won’t happen again.”
Even though Goodnight Moon is still tucked away in my son’s bookshelves, the lyrical words of Margaret Wise Brown have now been replaced by the wizardry of Harry Potter. There will no more “bears sitting on chairs.” No more “bowls full of mush.”
I can’t help thinking, though, that if that flashing neon sign had lit up the sky the last time he and I turned those pages, I would have stretched out the reading a little longer, savored the illustrations of the “great green room” just a little more, or maybe tempted fate by reading the book to him again.
Probably more than anything, though, I would have captured in my minds eye the look of wonder on my son’s small face as he followed the words and pictures along the page. Instead, I innocently put the book down at the end of the night, fully expecting we’d pick it up again.
But we never did, and time marched on until the little boy who once love to point upward to the moon discovered there was so much more to know about that distant, giant ball in the sky. Now there are new books to open and new pages to read–about eclipses, moon rocks, and Neil Armstrong. Now a fourth-grader stands in front of me with note cards in hand, rehearsing a class presentation about the Apollo V lunar landing. Thankfully, the moon hasn’t lost any of its magic for this young man.
It’s a good thing that we mark milestones like birthdays, graduations, and new years with celebrations that help us say goodbye to one era and hello to the next. As one hand joyfully unwraps the birthday present, the other pauses for just a moment to wave to that flashing neon sign in the sky. But what about all the ordinary, day-to-day experiences that exit without the opportunity for a farewell?
I’m hoping that what they say about death is true: my entire life will flash before me like a movie, and I’ll have a final chance to celebrate the simple, beautiful moments that I was blessed to play a part in, moments that slipped by without my knowing how special they were. Until then, I think I’ll curl up on the sofa with my son, enjoy the sweet smell of his freshly shampooed hair, and read Harry Potter one more time.
By Barbara Wylan Sefton
Happy Mother’s Day to all women who nurture and love.
Wishing you a pancake breakfast, colorful envelopes in the mail, wet kisses, or fragrant flowers to celebrate in your honor.