Helena spreads her beach towel out on the floor in the hallway and invites me to — nay, insists that I — sit on one of the many towel fish. She sits at the head of the towel and announces that she will tell us (for I sit among her invisible "amis") a story. She draws a book from the shelf, holding it up carefully so we can all see the picture. She is going to tell us the story of "Bootsie Bootsie. The little girl a peur parce qu'il y a dinosaur. Rawr."
J-F (to me): What's this book about? Any good?
Helena (to J-F): C'est pas ton livre. That's Mama's book!
J-F: I was just asking about it... I wasn't going to take it.
Helena: C'est le livre a Mama. Pour la salle de bain.
(For those of you who don't speak French, essentially, "That's mom's bathroom reading.")
Helena scurries about, notes that she "forgot" her book, picks one seemingly at random off the shelf, and is reluctant to part with it throughout bath preparations. Finally, she sets it very carefully on the counter, away from the bath, telling me she does so because she doesn't want it to fall in the water.
Helena requests a reading of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (The book of last summer.) I oblige. I usually drop the book on the bedside table when we finish; she won't let me — she wants to hang on to it and hugs it tight. Lights out. Good night. Minutes later, I hear her little voice booming out from her room. She recites the book in its entirety. Accurately. Twice.
My worries were unfounded. All in her own time, in her own space.