Yesterday morning before school I was reading the boys a book on the couch. It was “Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day,” a book I’d read to Jay hundreds of times, but which we hadn’t picked up for awhile. With Wally on my lap and Jay beside me, we opened to the section on “Wood, and how we use it.” The first page is scenes of loggers working in a forest; the second is a diagram of a lumber mill.
When we got to the lumber mill Jay said, “Oh, I love this page, can we keep looking at it.” So he and Wally did. They studied the ways the logs move through different kinds of saws, noted small details like the logger-mice who’ve fallen into the river, and laughed when they saw the place where Daddy Pig has put a two-by-four through his windshield.
As the boys were looking at the page, I thought of an experience I’d had this summer. In my childhood bedroom I’d found a book called “Hucklebug.” It was sitting on a shelf, unearthed in some kind of recent moving. I hadn’t thought about the book in years, but as soon as I saw it, something dormant in my bones came back to life. And this reactivation didn’t owe to the book itself. It was caused by one particular detail: Hucklebug’s bright red, high-top sneakers. Something about their color, or maybe the slightly goofy way the shoes sit on his feet, had gotten snagged in my mind a long time ago. Seeing those shoes again, with my own kids playing outside in the yard, I felt the physical experience of being seven years old come rushing back.
So when Jay told me how much he loved the page about the lumber mill, I thought his memories might be in the process of catching like mine had. Maybe a long time from now he’ll come across the book again. He’ll pick it up, begin to flip curiously through the pages, a smile forming on his face, and then his eyes will find Daddy Pig still putting that board through his windshield. He’ll see the little pieces of broken glass on the hood of car, and maybe in an instant, he’ll be back sitting on the couch beside me.