She asked me “Papa? What does melancholy mean?” I was in the middle of several tasks involving at least 2 of our other three children, but that was a loaded question if I ever heard one.
“In what context did you hear that word?” I asked as neutrally as possible.
“In class. In a book we’re reading.”
I sighed in relief. “Oh that means sad. Maybe with a bit of regret.”
“Ok. Ya, this book is a little sad.”
“What book is it?”
“Because of Winn-Dixie. Will you read it too?”
“Sure. That sounds nice.”
It’s easy to make a future promise like that. I enjoy reading, and I’d love to encourage my oldest daughter in learning to love books more and more. Living up to that promise before the book had to be returned to the library was a bit more challenging.
Every day since I made that promise to read it, she’s patiently asked me “Did you read Winn-Dixie yet?” Yesterday, I was tired and barked back “I will! I’ll let you know when I do!” — Regret.
Today she had a swim meet. I’ve often gone a bit begrudgingly. These are chaotic, loud, crowded events. But by chance I brought Because of Winn-Dixie with me and I happened to grab a shaded spot where I could be present and still hide away and read.
While she was killing time with her friends until her next event, I read Winn-Dixie and fought back tears. What a wonderfully simple, beautiful, melancholic story. And she loves this book.
I got up to grab a coffee at the Kona Coffee stand, greeted with a Mahalo! As I paid the Haole behind the counter, I saw my girl.
“I’m half way through Win-Dixie now. I’m just reading about Otis.”
Her face brightened up so widely. “Ya! He plays music for the animals. He was in prison but he’s a good person.”
She remembers every detail of this book. She comprehends its nuance. She sees the melancholy and doesn’t shirk from it — Awe.
I let that awe sit with me before I cracked the pages again. That awe mingled with the regret from the previous night. The mingled regret with the awe gave me a determination to listen to her more closely when she’s excited about something. To join her in her excitement.
The way she smiled when I said I was reading it; the way we enjoyed the story together; the way I feel determined to pay better attention in the future and want to talk with her more about this book and help her find more of them to be excited about redeems the regret, prevents me from wallowing in it; puts me on a path to prevent future regret — Redeemable.
Regretawedeemable. It’s a complicated emotion that I’m just starting to understand. It feels biblical and important. I’m certain it doesn’t require parenthood, but I’m thankful that parenthood brought it to me.