When my sons were children, I fitted into the movie theater audience. I also belonged in the children's book section. No raised eyebrows; no questions asked.
But now that my boys have grown and moved away, I stand out like a giant beanstalk growing through the roof.
I miss those juvenile cartoons with the lovable heroes and happily-ever-after endings. Little Nemo is my hero. My husband and I both adore "Monsters, Inc." and the little girl, Boo. She reminds us of a sweet niece who lives too far away to use for camouflage when we want to see a kids' flick.
The truth is, I adore children's stories. The moment I feel my creativity lag, I head for the picture-book section of the local library or bookstore. I always have.
When my men were boys, we chortled together over "The Giant Jam Sandwich" and "Dooley and the Snortsnoot." As they developed a taste for things a touch more literary, it was "The Hobbit" and "Where the Red Fern Grows."
During my own childhood, I constantly listened to a record of "The Teddy Bear's Picnic." My mother still can't stand to hear that song after listening to it daily until she sent me off to school.
Once I learned to read, I read soup cans, street signs, and billboards. The cereal box at the breakfast table is where I discovered I could order classic literature, paying for it with box tops. We went through a lot of cornflakes that summer. For weeks after we sent the box tops off, I harassed the local postmaster: "Do I have a package?" "Did it arrive?" "Hasn't it gotten here, yet?"
The postal employees were all so glad when the box finally arrived that the clerk locked up the post office and ran across the street to deliver the box personally to my front door. (That was one of the perks of living in a small farming community.)
I still have that book: "Black Beauty," by Anna Sewell.
I struggled my way through the pages detailing the difficult life of a beautiful horse. I cried over every evil perpetrated against that poor creature, and then cried at the ending when he was finally safe and loved. Horses remained a favorite topic for a long time, and my dreams were filled with riding a beautiful red-gold horse such as Stormy or visiting Chincoteague, Va., the island of wild ponies.
Eventually I moved on to "The Secret Garden," "Little Women," "Jane Eyre," and Nancy Drew in all of her escapades.
But even then, I would grab a picture book while at the library and read about the Little Prince or Peter Rabbit or that little French cookie girl, Madeleine.
Now that I'm without wee ones, I pretend to go into the local bookstores to peruse the CDs, DVDs, and mystery novels. But in truth, I'm waiting for a chance to head for the children's books.
There I stand and read as fast as I can until some child catches me and suggests that I buy the book or read at home. Yes, it actually happened when I was reading my favorite children's book of all time: "Click, Clack, Moo," by Doreen Cronin.
I don't know if kids get the story line, but I, an empty nester, adore it - the negotiations, the strike, the old typewriter, the duck as a go-between, and the ironic twist at the end.
Ahhh, I could read it again and again, and I do - every time I see an opening in the children's section of the local bookstore.