Youngest Son and I are reading Lemony Snickett’s Series of Unfortunate Events together. Unfortunately, the other night we found ourselves in between books, and the library was closed. I asked him what he’d like to read, and he said, “You can choose a picture book.”
So in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday this month, I chose my favorite, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. It reminds me of my grandmother.
When I would sleep over my grandparents’ as a child, that was always the book I asked her to read to me. There weren’t a lot of books to choose from at their house, but that was my favorite.
As I read it aloud to Youngest Son, I found my voice slipping into familiar inflections Grammy would use. I pushed out my lower jaw just a bit and overpronounced my s’s. I was chuckling over the parts where she used to get tongue-tied.
“So if you wish to wish a wish, you may swish for fish with my Ish wish dish”
“What good to a Nook is a hook cook book?”
I would sit next to her on the low twin bed, my shoulder touching her arm. She’d be wearing one of her quilted robes, one she’d made herself, and smell slightly of Noxema. She’d look down at me, over the bridge of her nose, over her reading glasses that were attached by a gold chain around her neck. She’d roll her eyes and mutter, “Ach du lieber,” and I could tell she was good-naturedly exasperated.
For the longest time I’d thought she’d made that phrase up, her own version of a Dr. Seuss word, like Ying or Zans or Zeep. But I actually just looked it up. Just now. No joke. It means “oh dear” in German.
My grandfather would also jokingly call me a “pasta fazool” which I also, for an indeterminate amount of time, thought he’d made up too.
So I do my best to get through the tongue-twisty parts of the story. It does require a decent amount of concentration and effort.
Youngest Son laughs at the illustration “some are old and some are new,” like it’s the funniest thing he’s seen all month. It’s an uncontrollable belly laugh that bubbles up like a shaken soda can.
I think how glad I am to have his head on my shoulder, that at age ten he still wants me to read to him before bed. I would read One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish every night if I could be guaranteed to hear that same laugh.
I get as much out of it as he does.
Miss you, Grammy.