Given enough time, the impossible can happen.
As it did in our home last week.
After flipping through the 318 pages of this book every single day, several times a day, for the past five months, giving it a status of indispensability and irreplaceability in his bedtime readings, D decided to keep it away.
After five months of falling asleep beside me as I read story after story from this book, the weight of his small body pressing against me with abandon as the rustling rhythm of pages turning and word-sounds lulled him to dreamscape, D decided to keep it away.
It wasn’t an overnight transition though. In the days leading up to this break-up, D was quick to cast away a story or two as one he no longer liked or wanted to read. And he had very precise reasons too. In Calling All Engines!, he didn’t like that the diesels and steamies “biffed” and “banged” each other. “Too violent,” he said. After mooning over Mr. Conductor’s faceless engine, which he eventually decided had a moon-face, for several days, he decided he no longer wanted to read Diesel 10 Means Trouble because Diesel 10 was always “very angry”.
Transitions are hard for me, I’ve realised, but not for D. He’s the child who can easily fill up bedtime readings with ten other books in the absence of Big Thoms (as he refers to the book), while I flipped through these other books, then strange and unfamiliar in my hands, without the once-constant, reassuring presence of Big Thoms to prevent me from seeing how quickly everything is changing, how swiftly time is slipping past.
Luckily for me, the break-up lasted all of two days.
As of the writing of this post (incidentally on the day I turned 38 and D turned 29 months old), D is once again truly, madly, deeply in love with Big Thoms. And he no longer dislikes any of the stories, choosing to read them to understand how the events play out rather than turn a blind eye to what he doesn’t like.
The tome arrived way back in June all the way from California, a gift from my brother and sis-in-law on the occasion of D’s second birthday. It is a collection of 13 short stories featuring Thomas and his friends. I honestly thought it was way above D’s reading level but as always, it turned out that what I know about little D is a tiny drop in the ocean of all that I don’t know about him!
What fascinates me about the stories is how trains have been portrayed as very human characters with very human emotions and interactions. Gordon is haughty, Henry is vain, James is mischievous, Thomas is the all-too-nice and all-too-noble character, and Percy is his sidekick.
In The Special Delivery, each train tries to be the one to deliver an urgent package to Sir Topham Hatt, driven by the desire for a pat on the back, except Thomas of course with his very noble intentions of only delivering the package as fast as possible without the greed of reward or praise.
In The Monster Under the Shed, James tells a ghost story to scare the bejesus out of Thomas. Since reading this story, D has taken to scratching every surface he can lay his hands on and declaring there are “monsters hiding”. (It made me wonder today. Why do monsters always hide? Are they as afraid of us as we are of them?)
Danger at the Dieselworks is about a misunderstanding between friends and how it takes big-time trouble for the falling-out to be resolved and the friendship to be rekindled.
D went through a phase of going to Walmart eagerly almost every week or so to buy a toy vehicle for $1. He has long gotten over the desire to add more vehicles to his collection but when Big Thoms came into our lives, he purchased tiny trains and spent several days staging The Special Delivery; we have all the five trains of the cast, only Harold the Helicopter and the Troublesome Trucks are missing from our fleet.
And whatever doubts I had about his comprehension abilities were put to rest by this conversation that took place a month or so ago. The first story in the book is titled Little Engines Can Do Big Things in which the big engines James and Gordon tease Thomas for being small and making mistakes, and say that he is unimportant.
For a while, whenever KrA and I struck up a conversation, D would yell over us, “No talking, no talking.”
For a long time, we resorted to telling D that Dada and Mumma need to talk and that he too can join in the conversation.
After reading a book titled Understanding Children’s Emotions by Isabelle Filliozat, I tried a different tactic with D.
The next time he yelled “No talking”, I asked him, “What do you feel when Dada and I talk?”
He thought about it for five seconds or so, and unambiguously said: “Unimportant”.
It was the first time he had used the word, and he pronounced it so beautifully and used it so well in the right context, it blew me away. I spent the next few days stunned, marvelling at this little bundle of wonders my child is.