On the wisdom of Children's Novels.

We've been having a heck of a few days in the MinneapoLiz family home, campers, and it's been a heck of a ride. Without going into too many gory details, the health of my grandpa is failing pretty quickly, and everything has spiraled downhill faster than the second half of the Pitt-Notre Dame game a few weeks ago. I've been fortunate to have the time off work I have right now between the old job and the new, and have been able to spend some time with my parents and the extended family who have come into town for the foreseeable future. 

All of this family togetherness (read: heightened emotional states, intense life-and-death conversations, and contemplation of the future) has gotten me thinking about mortality and wisdom and patience and all sorts of very abstract ideals and concepts. Further, because I am a hopeless, relentless, insatiable and irredeemable bookslut, I tend to link the experiences and thought-trails of my everyday life with literature I've read, loved, and learned from in the past, which has turned out to be a bit profound over the past few days. 

Before I delve too far into this, let's step back a bit for some context. On the 12-hour road trip to Ohio this past Wednesday, my mom asked me, kind of out of the blue, what my favorite children's book is. Guys, what a tough question that turned out to be. Think about it. I was fortunate enough to come from a family that read extensively to me as a young child, and with me as a medium-child, and continued to foster that love of reading as a grown-up child, adolescent, and young adult. The sheer number of books we read is staggering, and my mom and I had a wonderful time recalling old favorites; we ended up creating quite the list in the car of classics we adored. 

This whole "Grandpa is dying" thing has been hard on everyone, and there has been a specific children's book mantra running through my head for the past couple days. The quote comes from "Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse:" 

 My heroine. Nobody has rocked cowboy boots and a crown with such panache since.

My heroine. Nobody has rocked cowboy boots and a crown with such panache since.

"Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better." 

I feel like that is just about the summation of how I've gotten through a lot of tough things in adulthood. I mean, think about it. What a great way to take something that seems so huge, so insurmountable, so all-encompassing, and distill it down…two little sentences. So simple. So manageable. So concise. It takes the very worst, and turns it into something that fits so easily on the tongue. In the palm of the hand. In the back of the mind.

It's been making a slow, steady cycle on repeat for me…when I hear the newest drama, update, issue; when my mom is upset, I find myself thinking that to myself. Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better. Even if it turns out not to be, the beautiful thing about that very quote is that it keeps one focused on the future, instead of dwelling in the ugliness of the present/immediate past. Perfect, am I right?!

The very best thing about children's novels, at least in my eyes, is that they can be such a poignant and honest reminder of the very best things in life. Optimism, hope, inventiveness, curiosity. Faith in other people…and, more importantly, faith in oneself. The fact that it's okay to simultaneously rock cowboy boots, a crown, a cape, and a purple plastic purse (thank God). To be fair, Lilly's "today was difficult" was a day of misbehaving at school…not quite the same thing as dealing with death. But authors don't write children's books that detail in excruciatingly mature verbiage the sheer idiocy, mindlessness and grief of the process of losing a parent. They take those sorrows and put them on a child's level. And some days, when things get to be too much, taking those bitter pills at a first-grade reading level isn't the worst thing ever. 

Am I alone in thinking this about children's books? Off to dig into other childhood classics…and maybe write that list of my favorites down somewhere. Til next time, sweet dreams and lots of love.