For me, yesterday was a series of lovely moments wrapped up in nostalgia. That and a light sprinkling of July rain.
Celebrating the wedding of an old and dear friend, with other old and dear friends, we felt 16 again. Except one of us turned up with a baby and the other was the groom. Scandal.
If you’d have described this future day to our old selves, sat in the 6th Form common room, piled on those musty chairs, arguing over the pool table, we would have laughed at you. Marriage and children? Us? Well, not quite all of us yet. But I love to watch the families grow in the friends I knew then and hold very dear to me now. It is a strange, bittersweet pleasure to watch us growing up, getting older, becoming responsible adults.
People have proper jobs and their dreams change rather than fade. But if you catch them in the right light, with heads thrown back and laughter let loose, that 16-year old shadow self is still there. And causing mischief.
Perfect then, that today’s little bookworm happily indulges in the nostalgia of her Mum’s childhood. She loves the books her Mum read. She’s lucky enough to have those books to hold on to and carry with her. These little parcels of time, soaked in history, heavy with memory and love.
Poppy is 8 and great. Cheeky, fun, full of imagination and ingenuity. She asked if she should change out of her school uniform, but I’m so glad she didn’t. It fits the theme of her session so beautifully for me. Nostalgia. In all it’s rosy glow and heartwarming hue.
Like most kids aged 8, Poppy is full of energy and enterprise. We were sat chatting, she would be deep in thought, discussing important things (the things that matter to an 8 year old, like hairbands, favourite soft toys and socks that don’t stay up)…
…before she would leap up onto her bed, tell me to shut my eyes, whilst she got her newest creation ready to show me. It was Kermit in a handmade parachute of straws, card and string. Poppy also made something very inventive out of knickers and socks, but that only came out after my camera was packed away. Lesson to Mum: anything not tied down will be up-cycled into something new to play with.
She’s a real bookworm. Not just someone who loves to be read too and the time that gives her with an attentive parent. But she really LOVES books. To read, to stack, to flick through, to pore over. Poppy performed the Fairy rap for me from one book, before telling me what she HATED, and then showing me what she loved by cuddling it. Do you know many other girls who cuddle copies of Asterix? Me neither. I love that I recognised it as something my brother had we when were little. Great storytelling always trumps present-day fads.
But we did have to have words. Happy ones. About what “one favourite” meant. Which is, not your favourite pile of books, Poppy, but the one book you would have with you on a desert island.
And with admirable resilience to cutting down the shortlist, Poppy chose a collection in one volume.
Clever Poppy. Very clever.
But I’m not easily beaten, so I asked her to narrow it down even more. One. Single. Favourite. From the beautiful Illustrated Classics for Girls, Poppy picked Heidi as her very favourite story.
And then a moment of quiet. Time to read and soak up the familiar story.
But ask her one too many times to look up and she will reward you with the perfectly calibrated 8 year old stare.
So back to the book and I ask her, what’s her favourite part? And I’m struck by her answer. She loves the end of the story. The picture is lovely and the family feels complete. “Once I was sad and lonely” Heidi’s Grandfather says. But now he is full of happiness.
Poppy shows me the picture, where Heidi and her Grandfather stare out at the red-gold sunset, together. This is my favourite she says, because they’re not lonely anymore.
Poppy’s not a lonely kid, not at all. Her shelves are full of pictures of her and her friends, her family.
But what she has is a keen sense of empathy. Reading can bring that out in you I think – immersing yourself in the the life of someone else teaches you to understand and appreciate what you have, and be aware of the lack of it in others. She knows that what she has in abundance, not everyone does. It makes her happy when they find it in the end. Togetherness. The warm, safe feeling of a family that loves you, deeply and always.
We have a moment of reminiscing, of loving these gentle old stories, before things come to an abrupt end. I think I’ve spied a worm on the carpet. This is a moment of mutual hilarity and a little stupid fear on my part.
Poppy hops down from bed to investigate. My overactive imagination strikes again. She looks up to me and laughs. “Just a stupid bit of my banana. The stringy bit from the peel.” Ahem. Yes. Cough. Of course it is.
Then to finish our session, Poppy’s mum entrusts us with a a treasure of hers – a hardback copy of the classic, Enid Blyton’s “The Magic Faraway Tree.” Poppy has a perfectly placed book-light and she loves the quiet of reading to herself at night, so she wanted to create a picture that featured it. We closed the curtains, pretended the sun had set and switched the light on above her.
That is the look of a kid who knows the happy little joy of an extra few pages before bed.
I might be biased, but those snatched chapters are so often the best.
If you have a little bookworm who wants to share their favourite stories, you can sign up here.