Thursday, June 20, 2013

And The Mountains Echoed... Nightime traditions

I'm just about to finish And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. It is beautifully written. It doesn't seem quite so painful or tragic as I remember his other books being. Don't misunderstand...some terrible things do happen. But somehow it still feels less painful and tragic...which I appreciate. He is quite a storyteller.

Anyway, as I was reading today, I was touched by something one of the characters does. The child has a nightly ritual with her father. He comes in to tuck her into bed. He then plucks bad dreams from her head with his thumb and forefinger.

"His fingers would hop from my forehead to my temples, patiently searching behind my ears, at the back of my head, and he'd make a pop sound-like a bottle being uncorked-with each nightmare he purged from my brain. He stashed the dreams, one by one, into an invisible sack in his lap and pulled the drawstring tightly. He would then scour the air, looking for happy dreams to replace the ones he had sequestered away. I watched as he cocked his head slightly and frowned, his eyes roaming side to side, like he was straining to hear distant music. I held my breath, waiting for the moment when my father's face unfurled into a smile, when he sang, Ah, here is one, when he cupped his hands, let the dream land in his palms like a petal slowly twirling down from a tree. Gently, then, so very gently-my father said all good things in life were were fragile and easily lost-he would raise his hands to my face, rub his palms against my brow and happiness into my head." (page 345-346)

I love this imagery and this tradition. I'd like to start it with my children. I especially like that it helped the child feel safe and loved. Since conference, I've thought a lot about making our home a haven, a place of safety. This seems like a concrete step that I could take to help create that.

Reading this got me thinking about traditions. I'm not sure why, but I often have tradition envy. I don't usually envy people's clothes or shoes or homes or cars or anything (except sometimes their hair is my least favorite thing about my body!) But I envy others' traditions. It seems like so many people have so many fun traditions that I sometimes wish we had more, especially involving our extended family. When I stop to think about it and try to put things in perspective, we do have some fun traditions. In particular, we have some traditions centering around birthdays and Christmas that I love. And I love spending time with my children right before bed. We usually read a story, read scriptures, say prayers and hug and kiss good night. I even spend a few more minutes with my youngest alone reading at least one more story and holding her and telling her I love her. But I love the idea of adding this idea of plucking away bad dreams and giving them good dreams. I love the idea of "rubbing happiness into their heads." As much as I value traditions, I know that for the most part if they aren't fairly simple, they aren't going to happen or at least be maintained. I also know that it is important for me to try harder to be "content with the things allotted to me." Either I need to figure out a few more traditions to add to our family life and then add them, or I need to quit comparing our traditions to others and feeling like we come out short. My children have a (mostly) happy and very blessed childhood and we have much to be thankful for. I need to quit envying others' traditions. (But if you have a favorite tradition you'd like to share, I'd love to hear what they are!)