In the afternoons, I put micro down for his second nap at 3 p.m. and then settle mini into the large striped armchair in her bedroom with her iPad for a cool hour of quiet. I am desperate to tidy, to clean, to put away, but I have learned in the past month that I am better to everyone — including myself — if I have absconded, selfishly, with my precious hour. Someone wrote, of parenting during this pandemic, that we would do well to remember the concept behind “In case of emergency, put on your own mask before assisting others.” That is to say that we must forgive ourselves if we turn on Frozen 2 for the umpteenth time in order to gather ourselves, or shower in isolation with Mariah Carey turned all the way up, or complete a yoga video, or read. In some irritating negotiation with mom guilt, I find that planning and supervising activities with mini in the mornings makes me feel better about giving her screen time in the afternoons in order to slip away with my hour. But the point is: many of you are being asked to do the impossible, and we must find ways to take care of ourselves lest we fray under the pressure.
And so, for the past week, during my quiet hour, I have been climbing into bed, closing my eyes, and listening to Tom Hanks narrate Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House in the bright light of the afternoon, windows open. It is, perhaps, the next best thing to a walk outside. It is restorative and escapist and there is something about Tom Hanks’ familiar and distinctive voice that reassures me.
A smart friend of mine described his narration of the book as “an obtuse mail delivery of the obtuse male perspective on a history of a family.” I laughed at that. There is something blockish about the semi-rushed, uninflected way he speeds through segments of the book, but then I find his voice lingers and curls around some of the more poignant bits, like when describing the way young Maeve falls ill after her mother leaves or recounting the scene in which Danny sees Maeve in the school office after their father has passed, and the effect is heart-rending.
The imagery, the characters, the cinematic quality of the book: I am deeply in love and am dreading its end. The experience has been a godsend during these times where I find it difficult to focus on words on paper. (Though I have just started this chart-topping easy read and it is flying by.)
What other audiobooks do you recommend?
And what do you do during your quiet hour (if you can manage it)?
+The phrase “the quiet hour” reminds me of one of my favorite books from childhood: The Napping House, which I just ordered for mini. Who else remembers this? A few other books she is loving right now: Make Way for Ducklings, Caps for Sale, and this Peter Rabbit board book. I find her recreating the story of Peter Rabbit with her little toys — she is highly concerned with Mr. MacGregor.
+After noticing the moon still in the sky early one morning last week, mini has been very curious about space, so I’ve been serving up as many planet-related activities as I can find. She loves listening to this (irritating) planet song and we decorated print-outs of the planets and then taped them on the “house” Mr. Magpie created out of enormous boxes in her bedroom. (If you don’t have big boxes on hand, Amazon makes it easy with one of these adorable pre-fabbed houses.) I have to say the box house has been a huge hit — Mr. Magpie even created a tunnel entrance on one side of the house and micro LOVES crawling through it! And mini spends portions of every day coloring it, taping things to its sides, etc. So now we have her own solar system there. I also found her this dot marker activity book, this space sticker book, and this planet book.
+I am in love with Paravel’s new tote bag! I love it in either the domino black or paloma colorways.
+The pattern on this darling bubble for a baby girl — I can’t!!! I would snap this up so quickly if mini could still wear it…
+Ordering this candle for spring next.
+These denim shorts for mini — yes!
+Transform your master bath into a spa with this, this, and fluffy white towels laundered in the most beautifully perfumed detergent. Make your vanity a little more elegant and ordered by placing facial cotton, q-tips, etc in these jars. It’s the little things…
+I think I might live forever in this longline cardigan in the white color.