Like thousands of other mums around Ireland, I read a bedtime story to my daughter last night. Unlike thousands of other daughters being read to, she’s nineteen.
I found a book we haven’t looked at together for twelve years. And it turned out to be not so much a book as a collection of worlds. There were the illustrations, from Your Turn Roger – ‘the pigs made me feel icky, Mum’ – to Gary Blythe’s pastels in The Whale’s Song that are so beautiful you have to stroke them. There was the fabulous rhythm of the poem Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy (my daughter said she never used to listen to the words) and the grown-up hilarity of How Tom Beat Captain Najork by Russell Hoban (she didn’t understand it but loved the way it made me laugh).
And beyond all that were the memories gift-wrapping the stories, of sitting in her infant bedroom on hot, still Cape Town nights watching geckos tickle the wall while cicadas buzzed outside.
Bedtime reading must be one of the greatest gifts we can give our children or peers (I still love being read to by my husband). What a pure, powerful joy – and all from a bunch of squiggles on paper.