By Richa Jha
Today’s the day the Little Monster is feeling worried because he’s been indulging in the rather wrong kind of imagining, as often happens with-and-to the calmest of us:
‘Mummy,’ said Little Monster. ‘Supposing when I woke up tomorrow morning…supposing there was a big…black…hole in the middle of the floor.’
Ah! Now that does sound scary, doesn’t it? But there’s something else too, something bigger and more worrying, that’s gripping him today, so he adds: ‘And I didn’t want to fall in (that big black hole), so I called you and you didn’t answer.’
Little Monster’s words are beautiful, so full of heart and so very believable in the aching niggling fear that possesses every young child – what if my mommy or daddy or both are not around when I call out to them.
‘And supposing you couldn’t come and help me because you had gone away.’
Oh, oh. That’s the scariest, indeed.
The Little Monster, being little yet, knows of only one kind of absence of his Mummy’s – that of her going away.
But as adults, we know of many kinds of going away that may leave us alone and helpless and heartbroken. The fear of suddenly finding ourselves struggling to find a way around the world without a loved one doesn’t quite leave us, does it? We worry about not having our partners, our children, our parents, our friends and other emotional anchors with us, whether fleetingly, or forever.
As adults, we are also equally familiar with indulging in the wrong kind of imagining: the overthinking that consumes us.
The Little Monster’s list of ‘supposings’ roll from one nightmarish thought to another, only gaining in degree and intensity until he gets to a point where he cannot imagine a situation worse than:
‘And I went on falling forever and ever and ever.’
Having exhausted all imagination, he seems to be done, but still clearly worrying, he asks his mummy: ‘Mummy, supposing all that happened when I woke up, what would it be like?’
And Mother Monster, wrapping him in a warm hug and gently acknowledging his fears says, ‘Mmm, that world be scary.’
Supposing, written by Frances Thomas and illustrated by Ross Collins, is not a book you would usually find listed among any of the best-picture book listicles. But for me, it’s my unbeatable go-to the moment I get aware of my negative self-talk kicking in. And the reason is this magical spin by Mother Minster on all the ‘supposing’ and imagining done just right when she starts spinning hers once Little Monster goes quiet:
‘But then supposing tomorrow when you woke up, you called me and I was making pancakes. And supposing you ate up all your pancakes, and then we went for a walk. And supposing we walked and walked until we found a green hill.’
What lovely things await them on this walk as Mummy’s ‘supposings’ get more and more fantastical, but equally believable, too! And as, through hills and balloons and ice cream and much more, Mother Monster builds it up higher and each supposing more charming than the previous one, we see Little Monster’s fears easing bit by bit and his darker thoughts turning into endearing ones full of wonder and possibilities, and their supposings begin to find an equal merry beat:
‘And supposing we went inside and made a fire and toasted some buns…’ says Mother Monster. ‘And you’d tell me a story,’ said Little Monster. ‘And I’d tell you a story. What would that be like?’ ‘Mmm,’ said Little Monster, ‘that would be very nice.’
What a powerful picture book to say in the simplest of ways what philosophers and spiritual gurus take pages to propound. That we are what we think. And we have it in us to change the course of our thoughts, and therefore, how our day ends up being. And the most precious life-lesson of all – that no person is a given in our lives. Those who we have in this moment with us may not be with us in the other. It is ultimately the memories we choose to create with them in the moment that they are with us that builds up to create a lifetime of memories that we have with them.
I’m writing out this piece on a vacation with my daughter through some glorious skies and howling winds and crimson sunsets. Over one such blazing red-streaked sunset sky that my daughter sits gazing, her mood suddenly turning pensive as she says, with a hint of wistfulness,
‘Mommy, what if I don’t remember a thing about this trip in a few years from now?’
And I do with her what Mother Monster did with Little Monster, and we build up our supposings of precious happy thoughts. And in that one moment, we end up creating a hundred possibilities that make that the most beautiful moment out of that moment.
The power of picture books, I tell you!
Richa Jha, a picture book devourer, reads, writes, publishes, gifts, buys, borrows and hoards them for herself. She believes that there is no better life coach than a picture book created just right. In this monthly column, she’ll share some of personal favourites.
At their best, picture books are powerful meditations on life, its quintessential soul-curry, as I call them. Pick them up, no matter where on the reading spectrum you see yourself – a book novice or an incorrigible bibliophile. They will never let you down.
P.S. She’s also on a mission of sorts to convert everyone into a picture book devourer. The world needs more of us.