So…practically from day one Tania and I have read to Boodles. When she was a baby I would hold her in my arms and read books to her even though she showed little interest in doing anything but gnawing on the books or tearing them up. As she gained control of her little hands she would reach out to touch the books so we tried to find books that had some tactile value such as eyes that moved or fuzzy surfaces.
Word got around to friends and family that The Princess liked books, so she got lots of books. Lots and lots of books. I’ve never actually verified this, but I think that by the time she was four Boodles had more books than her Mama and I combined, and we both have advanced degrees!
Her shelves are populated by the usual suspects: Winnie the Pooh, Curious George, various Disney characters, lots of princesses and ballerinas. Some of Tania’s old books found new life in Boodle’s library, and I dug out the Dr. Seuss books that I had as a child. Always the ham, whenever I would read to her I would give different characters their own voices (I contend that my rendition of The Cat in the Hat leaves all others in the dust).
When she was old enough to walk and talk, she would come up to one of us with a book in her hand and say “Ree da book.” All other activities had to be set aside because her majesty had spoken. As her mind and her language skills developed she would ask questions, or we would ask her if she understood a word. If we couldn’t find a book that interested her sometimes we would just make up stories.
Since I’ve been away from her physically, our time on the phone has become very important, and one thing that has become so precious to me is that now she likes to read to me. It started with short stories from Highlights magazine, has progressed to longer books, and now – very proudly – “grown up chapter books.”
Since we are three hours apart, I take my first break at midnight and call her. It’s 9pm in California and she’s usually ready for bed, or getting ready. She has discovered the book The Secret Garden and has been reading me a chapter a night, give or take a few interruptions when she can’t find the book, etc. She will say “Do you want to read The Secret Garden?” Or I’ll say “Ree da book.” That always gets a laugh out of her. Sometimes she will say, “Can I read to you pleeeeeeease?” As if she has to talk me into it. As if hearing her read to me isn’t the highlight of my day. That’s like saying, “Will you breathe oxygen pleeeeeeeease?” Or “Will you eat chocolate pleeeeeeeease?”
The break room at the store is usually too noisy, so I have a couple of other places I go. There’s a training room in the back that has computers where we take our computer based classes, that’s usually pretty quiet. Another of my favorite spots is the waiting room at the Tire and Lube Express Center at the south end of the store. The TLE is closed during third shift, and I can go sit down on a bench in the corner and be all by myself, in the dark, with the voice of my favorite human.
To be honest, between the modulation of Boodles’ voice and the less than pristine sound of my cell phone I don’t always catch every word of the bittersweet story. That’s not the point though. I get lost in the delightful music of my sweetie’s voice, and for the time it takes to read one chapter we are together again. She is in her room, tucked up in her bed, and I am in the waiting room or the training room of a crappy big box store, but for 15 minutes or so we are together in our secret Daddy and Daughter garden.
In the past, sometimes Boodles and I have had trouble coordinating our good-byes. I would say “Good-bye sweetie, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” But she would still be talking. Then Tania would call back thinking that we had gotten cut off. So Boodles came up with the very elegant seven-year-old solution: When I need to hang up the phone, I say “beep beep.” And she does the same.
So, until next time my sweetie, I love you. Beep beep.