For several weeks my job has had me working on a financial project that hasrequired being sharply focued for hours and hour on spreadsheets. Last week I needed a mental “breather” and took my lunch break to stop by my favorite used book store.
This particular used book store is quite large. It has more books that any chain store I’ve ever been in and fills an entire old strip center. My time there is usually spent in browsing sections I have the most interest in: psychology, self-help, poetry, philosophy, new-age and health aisles. There’s even a particular pattern I follow that is the most efficient way to check my favorite sections for anything new that may have come in since my last visit. Most often poetry is the last section checked as within my loop it’s the final stop before the register and front door.
This past Wednesday it was near 2pm when I neared in that last aisle. The small poetry section is located at the very back of walkway created by long flanking shelves of children’s book’s on the right and left. On the floor just in front of the poetry shelves was a thirty-something man sitting on the floor reading to a little boy about five years old sitting in his lap. From the way the kindergartener looked at the adult I surmised what was in my view was father and son. My mind floated to a past memory of my son as a youngster as I watched and listened.
Standing a dozen feet away for about a minute before the father noticed me, I was the chance voyeur of a sweet moment shared between the him and his son. Overhearing the words being read I identified them as familiar, but from a source not immediately known.
I sent a message to the fish:
I told them “This is what I wish.”
The little fishes of the sea,
They sent an answer back to me.
The little fishes’ answer was
“We cannot do it, Sir, because-”
It was right after I heard “I’m afraid I don’t quite understand,” said Alice. “It gets easier further on,’” Humpty Dumpty replied that I knew the words were from “Through the Looking Glass…”, Lewis Carroll’s follow-up to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. The small boy looked at the book, then to the reader’s face and then up to me and back down on the book. The father continued.
I sent to them again to say
“It will be better to obey.”
The fishes answered, with a grin,
“Why, what a temper you are in!”
I told them once, I told them twice:
They would not listen to advice.
I’m smiling enjoying what I am seeing and hearing. At that point the little guy is looking directly at me with a somewhat serious look as if I am somewhere I am not supposed to be. At that moment I believe he was convinced the real estate of that particular aisle was fully owned by him and his father. He looked back at the book as the reading continued.
I took a kettle large and new,
Fit for the deed I had to do.
My heart went hop, my heart went thump:
I filled the kettle at the pump.
The young boy pulled on the shirt sleeve on the arm around him. His father first looked at him and then up at me. I quickly said “don’t mind me, I was just eavesdropping”. I would have preferred the reading to continue. The thought occurred I should leave and let them be but before I could the dad said “excuse us” and he moved to get up to make way for me in the aisle. I pointed to a bench about 15 feet away and said something like “I’m sorry for interrupting you guys. Maybe you’ll be more comfortable over there.”
I browsed the poetry section quickly and found nothing new as I strained to hear the continued reading now from the bench out of ear shot. As I walked by them and toward the front door the last thought I made out being read was one of Humpty Dumpty suggesting two eyes on the same side of the nose. That line made the little boy laugh the cutest little laugh.
Always I will remember father and son sitting on the floor sharing Alice’s Wonderland adventures. Seeing them brought back memories of my almost thirty year old son as a child sitting in my lap while I read to him. I found the needed mental decompression I needed when a just-made memory connected with an old one, increasing the value of both. What a delightful experience! I am very grateful for it. There is so much life and joy to be found when I will just stop and notice it.
Pleasure is the flower that passes;
remembrance, the lasting perfume.
Jean de Boufflers