Sunday, January 27, 2008
I was watching my cat sleep today and I was envious. Not of her ability to sleep for 16 hours a day, since I actually resent how much of my day is occupied by required sleeping but of her ability to relax so deeply. Not that she is always relaxed. At the moment she is doing furious battle, saving the world from a rubber band. But I envy those moments of spineless repose, where her only worry is whether dinner will arrive on time.
I’ve been hypnotized during a course on hypnosis and trust me, it is a very relaxed feeling but I doubt I looked that calm. I don’t think I’ve looked that relaxed when asleep since I was an infant and still believed that all was safe in my world. Cats have all the luck.
When my kids were infants, we read to them from a number of board books. Writing a good baby book is quite an art. It might appear easy to the uninformed. After all such a book is rarely more than 20-30 words in length. But that is the point. It has to be readable, not once but a hundred times, aloud. The pictures have to be bold and eye catching, but even more, the words have to have a certain seductive rhythm and tone, like great poetry, only catchier and more accessible. One classic of the genre, "Goodnight Moon", seems dull and lifeless until read aloud. Then the tone and rhythm catch the ear and lull the senses into a state of, see I had a point here, relaxation.
We had our favorite stories, like most families. There were the train books, the dinosaur stories, the bedtime stories. Some were funny, some sweet. Some just outright ridiculous. The queen of silliness has to be Sandra Boynton. Sandra started in the greeting card business I believe. But her board books captured my family’s attention. Our favorite was “But Not the Hippopatamus.” Quoth I:
A hog and a frog
Cavort in the bog.
But not the hippopotamus.
A cat and two rats
Are trying on hats.
But not the hippopotamus.
Doesn’t this remind you of middle school? The best reading of all was when a French family member read it with an exaggerated French accent. We nearly died laughing. I can’t reproduce it well in print but imagine “But not ze ippopotamoose,” and you get the idea.
Another favorite which I have to quote from memory since the book must be in a box somewhere is “Max’s Bedtime” by Rosemary Wells. Max loses his red rubber elephant right before bedtime. His older sister Ruby tries to comfort him with all his other stuffed animals. “ ‘Relax, Max,’ said Ruby. But Max could not relax.” The pictures are great and the story has a happy ending. Max finds his red rubber elephant and goes to sleep. If my child didn’t do as well, it wasn’t Rosemary’s fault.
I still say “Relax, Max” to my kids although I’m not sure they remember the source of the quote. I don’t know if they listen anymore but they did back then.
So we should all learn to relax from cats, and Ruby. After all, life is too short not to waste more of it.