I’ve been away for a spell as the whole family flew to Bacolod to pay our last respects to my paternal grandmother, Lola Binyang, who passed away last week.
I was too young to remember the death of my paternal grandfather or my maternal grandmother, so losing both remaining grandparents in under two years is painful. Growing up with grandparents make you feel they’ll last forever (because to you they’ve always been old), and no matter how old you get, they still make you feel like a kid again, so losing a grandparent is a bit like a death toll on your own mortality.
Lola always spent part of the year with us when I was younger and she was still mobile. I remember endless summer afternoons playing cards on the bed with her — she was quite the cardshark — paris-paris (“pairs” in Ilonggo), blackjack, and even solitaire, as she’d leave a pack of cards behind to tide me over until she returned to our house the following year.
Let me borrow Quentin Blake’s illustration from Roald Dahl’s “The Witches,” as this is how I’ll always remember her: puffing away at her tobacco, telling me the story of how my dad was born in a storm.
In remembrance of my lola, I want to share with you this book, What the Dormouse Said: Lessons for Grown-ups from Children’s Books, collected by Amy Gash, illustrations by Pierre Le-Tan, and foreword by Judith Viorst. It’s been a comfort to me since we received the phone call from my aunt about my grandmother’s passing.
The book is over a hundred pages of quotes from well-loved children’s books, on various topics, such as faith and courage, imagination and adventure, character and individuality, practical musings, sadness, hidden truths, love and friendship, and growing old.
Here are some favorites from the book:
“Too much learning breaks even the healthiest.”
– Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren, 1950
“Sometimes you know in your heart you love someone, but you have to go away before your head can figure it out.”
– Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech, 1994
“Music is very nice for a party because it gives you time to eat your fill without having to make conversation.”
– The Cricket in TImes Square, George Selden, 1960
“She was not afraid of mice —
she loved winter, snow, and ice.
To the tiger in the zoo
Madeline just said, “Pooh-pooh”
– Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans, 1939
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. ”
– Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Dr. Seuss, 1990
“It dooes not do to dwell on dreams and forget how to live, remember that.”
– Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling, 1997
“The whole world had changed. Only the fairy tales remained the same.”
– Number the Stars, Lois Lowry, 1922
” ‘What makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere it hides a well.’ ”
– The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
And this one is for Lola Binyang:
What the Dormouse Said, first edition hardcover with dust jacket, 5/5 stars
Book #94 for 2011