Written by: co-founder, Leslie Means
Tucked away among four walls in the living room of my childhood home was a collection. This collection today would hold very little value, but to me, it still means the world.
On the very bottom shelf, beneath the fish tank and tattered books they stood — a complete set of Childcraft Encyclopedias. I recall browsing through each of them with utter detail; staring at the images that captured my attention, wondering just how big this world is. And when I was embarrassed to ask Mom or Dad a question, I turned to those books and searched to find the answer I was seeking.
I needed my favorite books this week more than ever.
Ella is starting to ask questions. Not easy questions like, “What are we having for supper?” or “Where does hamburger come from?” No, she’s not asking questions like those. Her mind is reaching, searching, trying to find the answers to her new discoveries.
When she asks them, I’m caught off guard. Usually I’m driving and nowhere near my phone for Internet access and nowhere near another adult who can reassure me that my answers are correct.
“It’s no big deal,” I tell myself. “I’m just molding her little mind, for her entire future.”
And then she asks again.
“Mama, is cinnamon good for you?”
“Yes, I believe it is,” I stammer. “I mean you can’t eat cinnamon sticks, that’s not good but when you use it as a spice, it can be good for you. Cinnamon makes me happy, because I love the smell it creates. So in a way, it can be very good for you.”
And then I stare into her beautiful green eyes from my rearview mirror, and I’m certain I’ve confused myself more than her. I also begin to question my answer. Is cinnamon good for me? I’m not really sure.
“We’ll be sure to look it up when we get home, Ella,” I tell her, hoping that will work for now.
“Where does it come from?” she responds.
“Um, I think it comes from a tree.”
Yes, that answer seemed to calm her questions until she started pointing out trees in our neighborhood, trees that she could see out of her window asking if she could find cinnamon in them.
“No, Ella, it can only be found in certain types of trees,” I respond.
At that moment I am reminded of my favorite books: my Childcraft Encyclopedias.
I wanted one, right then and there. I could even see the image on the front cover; the one with the frayed binding and scribbles on the torn pages. Where had they gone?
“Ella,” I say with confidence. “I used to have a big set of books that helped me answer all these questions. I bet Papa and Grandma still have them. We should find out.”
The following day, I called my mother. She had just run across the complete set a few days earlier while going through a few items in storage.
“You haven’t thrown them out, have you, Mom?” I asked.
“No, but you better come get them if you want them,” she responded.
Want them? I need them!
“Don’t throw them out,” I explained, anxious to hold their musty pages in my fingers again.
Very soon the collection will sit on my book shelves. I look forward to the days when my girls and I can scan those pages. We’ll learn old facts and discover how much has changed since the early 1980s.
Maybe once those books arrive I can help answer Ella’s latest question that was formed after watching the movie “Dumbo” several times over the past few days.
“Mama, do all babies fall from the sky?”
“Not exactly, Ella,” I explain, wondering how my 3-year-old is already asking such questions.
Fortunately, I know the answer to this one and I do remember a page or two in the “About Us” book that could give me a starting point.
But after that, I’d better become a parent and lean on my own instincts to teach. I suppose there are some questions even tattered pages can’t help us answer.
P.S – Do you remember these books?! LOVE them!!