The words from Margaret Wise Brown are forever a part of my collection of memories from the early childhood of my little sons.
I am looking for a ladder, not only in the theoretical sense, for one that would let me rise above the stars, to look on my days, and to find the reasons behind all my pursuits. I am also looking for just the right wooden ladder to allow tiny readers (and those of us who can no longer scale a four-foot wall without a boost) access to the shelf of nostalgic wonder, a shelf stocked with all of the best and most important stories. The ladder has to be simple so as to fit without sticking out too far into the hallway. I hope it will have a history, for those are the best kind of things.
“If you give a mouse a cookie, …”
Each day, sometimes many times on a given day, our farmhouse reveals a new possibility for a project. As I walk the property to become more familiar with our land, my dreams flow unharnessed. There is so much here, so much yet to unlock, and so much yet to discover. And when I start just one little thing, it’s hard to ignore all the others that beckon so convincingly.
“He’s going to ask for a glass of milk.”
I guess there is some parallel here, as the story goes, and as does Laura Numeroff’s classic tale.
Never have I been a fan of carpet. It had to go, right away, this matted nondescript brownish remnant which was tacked to that empty nook behind the stairs, next to the rooms where the little boys sleep. I knew just what this space was going to be, what purpose it would serve, even before the previous homeowner had accepted our hopeful bid.
Within a few short weeks of our closing date, the carpet was pulled away like one of the unnecessary book covers I had been required to make from a grocery bag in seventh grade. The beaten pine boards have come to a new life with a coat of sparkly purple paint. One of the bookshelves from our old house just happened to fit in the space as if it had been built in. A soft bench cushion from a precious new friend beckons its first visitor. I just need that ladder.
As the baby slept peacefully in his room down the hall, I took my time opening the cardboard boxes and stocking the shelves with books from a quarter century of childhoods. I knew nearly each book intimately, though it had been many years now since most had been paged through. I could breathe in the text and my mind would fill with the image of a lazy picnic at Wilder Park, or a trip to the Chocolate Moon with my favorite Mama friends, or hours keeping bedside vigil with a feverish boy. Those days, once upon a time, are gone now. Time has gotten the best of me, I realize, with my days a jumble of caseworker visits, fight mediation, and calls from the principal. “Goodnight Moon” does not have the same charm now that someone is swearing at me from the bottom of the stairs.
Sometimes, I wish for a really, really long ladder.
I admire my friend Audre. She still, in a life that mirrors mine in many ways, finds solace in her books and continues to allow her passion a place on the stage. Audre has opened my eyes, once again, to this timeless gift; she has reminded me not to forget. She has even bought me some books…books that I am eager to read…once I find my ladder.
There’s a tiny boy stirring, and I am going to be sure we have plenty of adventures together in this magical spot.
So, in the spirit of Maurice Sendak, “let the wild rumpus start!”