My oldest boy is five. Turning six soon. I’ve gone out of my way to make sure I can put him to bed every night. It kind-of became my job. When I was still at the agency, I did everything I could to get home in time to put him to bed, even on nights that were insane and involved late work. It’s something I enjoy doing, even when it takes a long time or he tries my patience.
While not every night is like this, there are some nights in his room when there are a good 10 to 15 minutes of pure magic.
It happens when he’s going through whatever winding down activity he’s chosen for the night.
Sometimes it involves quietly racing cars around a track before parking them. He’ll make quiet little engine noises, and then carefully place each car next to another. It’s very methodical and controlled. Nothing spastic about it.
Sometimes he’ll finish drawing “a book” that he’s been working on throughout the day, and then he’ll walk me through the story.
Other times he’ll quietly flip through a book on his own before we sit down to read one together. Sometimes he’ll then tell you about the book itself, the different parts of it and what they are called.
These are my favorite nights.
“This is a hardback book.”
“This is a book jacket.”
“This is the spine. It holds the pages together.”
There is nothing that feels more wholesome than this. I don’t know if it’s some kind of biological thing or if it’s just me, but I am never more relaxed or present than when he does this.
Being present like this, you start to notice the details again. The floppy sound that the pages make as they are being turned. The crackling of the glue in the spine as the pages move. The texture and feel of heavy paper. The distinct smells of dusty older books and the crispness of the new.
The artwork suddenly stands out as big and beautiful. You feel the textures and depth and style that goes into it all. You appreciate the imagination and creativity and the care taken with materials when putting it all together. You wonder about the nonsensical nature of the story being told, and how it came to be written.
These are the moments you remember. You don’t remember the spazzing and yelling and demanding and Sharpying of expensive things.
No digital anything could feel this way.
It’s too fundamental to be replicated.