Tonight, Carlos chose “Goodnight Moon” for his bedtime book. We haven’t read it in a few months–I never got the sense he really liked it, but what do I know? He likes to say “mush” and “bears” and “chairs” and “yight.” Our copy of this board book was Vivi’s favorite for a while, too, so it is soft around the edges and broke backed. We find the mouse on every page and we whisper good nights to the kittens, the mittens, the comb, the brush, the old lady whispering hush. When we got to “good night stars, good night air, goodnight noises everywhere,” I choked up on something that’s been making me sad all week.
Absence. Emptiness. Distance. The space between the stars. The empty places in the trees as the leaves begin to fall.
Goodnight Moon has been around for seventy years. Phones and clocks don’t look like that any longer. Who eats mush? When I was younger, I remember seeing that book and thinking how godawful the colors were. And the plot! Bleh. Now I find such peace in that tidy room. Margaret Wise Brown takes the fear and loneliness of darkness and going to sleep and turns them into cozy comforts. That room’s never lonely even when it’s quiet.
I’ve been lonely this week with G out of town. I’ve been really proud of myself for taking care of the family single-handedly and hitting all my marks. But I had a few conversations about grief/loss/change/sorrow this week that got old feelings bubbling up, and once the kids are in bed I have all this time and quiet on my hands. I walked downstairs the other day to retrieve something for Vivi and passed a picture of Richard’s and my feet propped on a balcony in New Orleans. I sobbed before I knew what was happening because that big toe doesn’t exist anywhere in the universe any longer. Our waitress at Steak and Shake wanted to talk about leukemia when she saw Vivi’s tshirt. I met my fundraising goal in his memory and his mother wrote me to say that it warms her heart when I do that every year. His classmate sent in a donation. So did people who never met him and only know him through my stories.
When I carried Carlos to bed, he held Goodnight Moon in both hands, clutched to his chest. After I tucked him in under his monkey quilt that my high school friend, Valaria, made for him, he seemed to be drifting off. I took the book and put it on the table. In the dark of his great yellow room, he wailed, “MY BOOOOOOOOOOK!” I brought it back to him and he laid it across his chest.
As I was washing dishes and crying for people I know who are hurting and for things that have gone away, I remembered a snippet of a song I heard 10 years ago on an Oxford American Magazine Southern Music CD: “Goodnight moon, goodnight stars, goodnight old broke down cars. Going away, leaving soon, goodnight darlin’, goodnight moon.” And lo, through the magic of Google and YouTube, I got to hear the song again tonight while the dishes dripped dry.
It’s by Will Kimbrough. Here’s a clip of Will singing it live at the Bluebird in Nashville:
I also liked this version. It’s tuned higher and the arrangement is spare and elegant. It’s Jason Vincent doing a cover of Will Kimbrough’s song “Goodnight Moon”:
After listening a few times and a few times more, I felt better. I remembered that the same moon shines on all of us, wherever we are, whenever we are. The moon that my grandparents kissed under is the moon that lit our path when Richard and I walked along a beach in Crete. It’s the moon G sees in Brasil, and Erica in Chile, Rhonda in Canada, Frances in Ecuador, Beth in France, Catie in Bhutan, Marian in the Netherlands, Heather up the street, Jean a mile from her, Rachel down in South Georgia, and Ginger in Ohio. Goodnight y’all. Goodnight all.