She read. They listened, staring at the pages.
As her voice rose in a loud whisper, their eyes would widen. In the story, an adventure was about to unfold for young, mischievous Max, sent to bed without his supper.
“And he sailed off, through night and day, and in and out of weeks, and almost over a year, to where the wild things are!”
I can still picture my wife reading “Where the Wild Things Are” to our boys as they peered over her arms at the monsters drawn so vividly by author Maurice Sendak, who died last week at age 83. Those sons are adults now, but they remember, not just the book but the bedtime narrations by their mom.
Reflections by millions of fans on Sendak’s masterpiece of children’s literature dovetail neatly with today’s celebration of Mother’s Day. The comforting sound of a mom’s voice reading a story lets kids drift into sleep more gently. The ritual can be a labor of love. Usually, the mother is exhausted and in far greater need of rest than the child. Like Max in “Where the Wild Things Are,” the youngsters may have just put up a fight over undesired veggies on the dinner plate, a TV show coming up after bedtime, or toys scattered in the hallway.
Yet, a truce occurs. Pajamas happen. The story begins. And, more often than not, both the weary mother and disagreeable child end up snoozing as the book slips from her grasp, over the blanket and onto the floor. It’s a win-win.
Memories of those instances linger. Years — OK, decades — later, I’ve not forgotten the vocal inflections my mom used for the characters in “The Adventures of Brer Rabbit.” That tale, buried inside a thick, brightly illustrated compilation of Walt Disney movie adaptations, made me laugh as a kid. Actually, Mom made me laugh, and then fall asleep.
Fortunately for me, I got to witness the magic firsthand, watching my wife read to our sons and our daughter. Their favorites tested her theatrical skills, especially the tongue-twisters by Dr. Seuss and the British dialects in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” The academy still owes her an Oscar for those efforts.
The ultimate challenge was reciting the lines by the character Hagrid in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Our youngest son was still honing his reading skills when that first installment of the bizillion-selling series was released in 1997. Hagrid was a burly, lovable giant, almost 12 feet tall, with a choppy accent that author J.K. Rowling said she patterned after the Welsh branch of the Hell’s Angels. Makes your eyelids heavy just thinking about it, right? Well, for a 7-year-old in Prairieton, it was a saga he eagerly anticipated his mom picking back up, night after night.
“Where the Wild Things Are” required a Shakespearean performance. As the story goes, young Max, having escaped the punishment of solitude inside his room, sailed deep into the imaginary forest where he became the “king of all wild things.” Those creatures were noisy and frightening (to all except Max, that is). To capture the drama, my wife narrated in an escalating, animated voice.
“And when [Max] came to the place where the wild things are, they roared their terrible roars! And gnashed their terrible teeth! And rolled their terrible eyes! And showed their terrible claws! Till Max said, ‘Be still.’”
Of course, Max eventually ends his getaway, deciding, “I’m lonely.” He “wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.” Saying goodbye to all the wild things, he sails back home to his room, where he finds his supper, still hot. That last line always earned a grin from the boys.
Other bedtime tales were more contemplative. Our daughter enjoyed reading “The Giving Tree” with her mom. That book, written by Shel Silverstein and published in 1964, follows the relationship between a boy and an apple tree. Unselfish to its core, the tree repeatedly provides for the boy. Its branches anchor his swing. Its shade cools him on a hot day. Its fruit gave him something to eat. The tree loves him, and the kid is happy.
As the boy grows up, the giving becomes greater. Finally, on the brink of adulthood, the tree sacrifices all by letting the young man cut it down, so he can build a boat to sail away, leaving behind just a stump. Decades later, the boy — now an old man — returns, but the tree — now a stump — sadly reminds him it has nothing left to give. The old man consoles the tree, saying he doesn’t need much, just a quiet place to sit.
And so he does.
Turns out, after all of the years of giving and receiving, it’s love that actually bonds the boy and the apple tree.
“And the tree was happy.”
Sometimes our daughter heard my wife read that closing line, and sometimes she was already asleep. Either way, her mom always smiled.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Connections made through bedtime stories linger through many Mother’s Days
She read. They listened, staring at the pages.
- Mark Bennett B-Sides
John bypassed by Hall of Fame again
Baseball Hall of Fame electors have bypassed Tommy John again. The Terre Haute-born pitcher, who won 288 games in 26 big-league seasons, didn’t receive enough votes from the Veterans Committee as it cast ballots on Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings.
Tim Meadows: SNL cast member knew he was prime time
If you watched the first broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 11, 1975, raise your hand.
That gives you something in common with Tim Meadows.
MARK BENNETT: Walk of Fame inductee would stand tall in any era
Unlike most of us, Amory Kinney didn’t let the wall around his comfort zone grow taller as time passed.
MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember
I remember scanning the granite wall at the grave of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, looking for those words.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John getting another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
Filling our void: Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe poured his heart and soul into the project of a lifetime
Bill Wolfe thumbed through a series of photographs documenting his sculpture of basketball legend Larry Bird.
MARK BENNETT: Keeping Terre Haute a vibrant city ‘worth doing’
The past, present and future had just converged at the Crossroads of America.
The moment was made possible by the gutsy spirit of 1920s Terre Haute. Without it, the city would look starkly different.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John’s Field of Dreams
A kid pedals a bicycle, a ball glove looped over the handlebar, headed to a sandlot game.
It didn’t get much better than that for a 10-year-old in summertime.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s Donnelly part of ‘The Middle’ that got deal done
Hanging out in the middle isn’t cool.
Its occupants don’t attract a captivated circle of listeners at parties, their comments don’t inspire hell-yeahs on Facebook, and they don’t pretend to always be right.
MARK BENNETT: ISU professor’s book on Churchill to be TV period drama
Somewhere, Winston Churchill is lighting a celebratory cigar in Michael Shelden’s honor.
MARK BENNETT: Restoration improves courthouse top’s standing in skyline
Terre Haute has a skyline.
From some angles, it consists of billboards, restaurant marquees and convenience-store signs. From other spots, the outlines of historic buildings, church steeples, college dorms and old industries jut into the horizon.
MARK BENNETT: Inspiring project connects Blues Festival, B&G Club members with music
Think a decade into the future. You’re relaxing amid a sea of fellow lawn-chair sitters at Seventh and Wabash, watching the 23rd annual Blues at the Crossroads Festival. Suddenly, the guy on stage starts playing your old Fender guitar. He sounds like the next B.B. King. Then, the guitarist dedicates a song to the person who donated that worn Telecaster to the youth music program in which he learned to play it.
MARK BENNETT: Even Marty McFly wouldn’t want to go back to those paydays
Reliving the 1980s may sound tempting.
Ah, simpler times. Then again … hair styles as big as mushroom clouds, “Miami Vice” jackets, the trickle-down theory, New Coke, Yugos.
OK, “Back to the Future”-style nostalgia obviously has its limits.
MARK BENNETT: Hoops film focuses on life of ‘Slick’ Leonard
Many Americans connect basketball with Indiana.
MARK BENNETT: Rose-Hulman bridge design would let people walk, run, ride across Wabash River
Four months, 500 miles and 18 towns.
In the course of compiling the “500 Miles of Wabash” series, which concludes this Sunday, Tribune-Star photographer Jim Avelis and I heard valuable insights from dozens of people who live, work and recreate along Indiana’s state river. One comment seems particularly relevant to Terre Haute, especially as the ongoing 2013 Year of the River celebration stirs ideas. The quotation affirms the potential of a stellar proposal this community ought to consider.
MARK BENNETT: When did athleticism surpass skill in sports?
Baseball has gotten too athletic.
MARK BENNETT: Steve Martin keeps Terre Haute on burner
If insults are a form of flattery, Steve Martin still likes us.
Better yet, he hasn’t forgotten us.
MARK BENNETT: At 71, Paul McCartney still rocking it eight days a week
I’ll admit, I worried about Paul McCartney during the blistering intro to “Helter Skelter.”
MARK BENNETT: Forget the cellphone, enjoy the summer
The third rail post from the left on the second-floor patio. By holding a cellphone at eye level, with your left hand, while standing perfectly still, without blinking, a faint one-bar signal was possible. Possible. Otherwise, there was no connection to the outside world at this retreat spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where my wife and I stayed earlier this month
MARK BENNETT: Time for surf, sand and a good book
I can read a book on the beach. Until I start sweating. Then it feels like exercise, minus the fitness perks. My brain shifts into neutral as the waves roll in, blissfully washing away footprints in the sand and my inclination to think. Better put, I enjoy starting a book on the beach, and finishing it later, elsewhere.
Police: Mom, son conspire to kill witness
The Clay County Sheriff’s Department seems to have prevented what it believes was a mother-and-son conspiracy to commit murder.
Banks of the Wabash Festival is more than just yearly entertainment
Pioneers think counterintuitively. Where others see widespread apathy, they focus on the possibility for progress. In a way, the 2013 Year of the River celebration began in the 1970s.
MARK BENNETT: After running for 28 hours straight, what’s another 5 miles?
Some phrases can only be uttered by a few people, or none at all.
MARK BENNETT: Glitches show limitations of high-stakes testing concept
The dog ate my homework. That age-old excuse — based on a shockingly unforeseen complication — rarely works for a kid who didn’t finish yesterday’s math assignment. Yet, in a role reversal, Indiana school children, along with their teachers and administrators, are left to accept an explanation for a disruption best described as the mother of all ironies.
MARK BENNETT: One step at a time to save lives
Remember that name.
MARK BENNETT: Sometimes, the mere posing of questions is significant
The era seems quaint now, almost like a fable. When people left their house doors unlocked. When the sight of a police officer in a school meant it was Career Day.
MARK BENNETT: New reality steers Nashville singer to Crossroads for Historical Society concert
People pass through the Crossroads of America for lots of reasons.
Business trips. College campus events. Federal prison sentences. Visits with relatives. Gas pitstops.
Or maybe a career change and a twist of fate.
Ty Brown makes his first stop in downtown Terre Haute as the headliner of a multi-band Sweet Sensations Country Jam concert May 4 in the Ohio Building — a fundraiser for the Vigo County Historical Society.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute barber ‘sharpens up’ customers for 50 years
People streamed through this section of downtown Terre Haute in those days.
“You could hardly walk by here,” John Hochhalter said, pointing toward the sidewalk outside the window.
The bustle has faded since the early 1960s. Hochhalter remains. He’s still barbering in the same shop he and late business partner Kenny Thomas opened a half-century ago this week.
MARK BENNETT: Memories, emotions rush back with announcement of new pope
I saw a pope once.Read quickly, that sentence sounds too casual, almost as if we’d crossed paths at Home Depot. Say it slowly, though, and the significance comes through.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections of grid success stir with Brent Anderson’s passing
A few hundred miles away, and nearly 40 years gone by, a special game ball still occupies a fond place in Rudy Bohinc’s memories.
- More Mark Bennett B-Sides Headlines
- John bypassed by Hall of Fame again