"Do you wan to hear a story about a badger?" I asked Lil' S one afternoon. He was my latest charge - a three year old wonder with a knack for dancing and an ear for stories.
"What's a badger?" he asked.
I described the animal to him and he asked me if it was a real animal, I told him it was, and he decided that he wanted to hear the story.
And that's how we started to read the Wind in the Willows.
We would read it on walks, at home on the couch, at the beach with Baby R sprawled out in my lap, outside in the grass, and at the table as the boys worked away on eating their lunches. He can sit and listen to me read to him for over an hour at a time.
I never wanted to push the book on Lil' S, but he never failed to ask for it.
At every twist of the plot, I'd ask him for a prediction and he always wove the badger into his story.
"And who do you think showed up?"
Last Friday, Lil' S turned four years old, which is a very, very big deal.
Birthday gifts have never been one of my strengths. I generally desire to celebrate someone's birthday with some sort of token of affection, but if I can't honestly think of something I think will be a good fit, I'd rather not give anything at all.
If I think of the right gift, though, I won't hesitate to obtain it for the human - money isn't an issue.
I went to the local island book store and asked if they had the Wind in the Willows. I wanted a hard-copy book with illustrations, idyllically unabridged. They had one copy. They asked who I was buying it for and I told them about Lil' S's birthday.
The woman in line next to me commented, "I wish you were my babysitter."
The woman running the bookstore gave me a 20% discount - the "babysitter discount" she told me. It was a huge gift to me because that lowered the cost enough that I could pay it with cash. I prefer to not use my debit card. I had had a number in mind and that discount brought it right within it.
She wrapped it up in brown paper and later I biked over to his house to give it to him.
The entire South End was there to celebrate four years of Lil' S and I added the brown package to the stack of gifts he had accumulated. There was every sort of toy and craft, I wondered how he'd feel about a book.
The next day, I went to Baby R and Lil' S's home to nanny for the afternoon.
"Last night, Lil' S fell asleep with his copper crown on his head and the Wind in the Willows in his lap."
Looks like this book found itself in the hands of the right owner.
Update: Today I got to nanny Lil' S and Baby R. We went for a long walk and I decided to ask Lil' S what he thought of the book.
"Well, I spent the last two nights reading it," he told me. "I've read it through twice! And you know how I read it last night?"
"How?" I asked.
"On my belly!" he told me with a giggle.
"Do you want me to show you how I read it?" he further inquried.
"Sure," said I.
And there on the side of the road (no cars, we were fine), he laid down on his stomach for a good 35 seconds. Then a car passed with his aunt and cousin in it and had a laugh with me.
When we got home, we read it that book -- we even read on our bellies for some of the time.