When my children were younger, I would tell them bedtime stories of my own creation. The one which they liked the most, Tom and Amber, ended up a series about a middle-aged bachelor and his oh-so-smart dog. It had a “theme song,” which cued the children into listening, and all the stories ended with “And then they closed their eyes and fell asleep,” which was the directive to do the same.
Early in Tom’s and Amber’s adventures, I threw a cat named “Riley” in. (I happened to be a law clerk at the time and working with a judge whose last name was Riley.) I gave Tom a sister; her name was Linda. (She was my boss after my clerkship ended.) Then came a whole slew of other characters, as you can probably guess, all of whom got names which my children deemed novel but were nothing more than the people in my everyday life appearing — at least by name and sometimes by description — in fictional storytelling between 7:45 and 8:00 PM.
I haven’t a clue how many individual stories went into the Tom and Amber series, though I’d guess close to a hundred. I once considered writing down all the plot lines so that I could retell them.
But, I opted not to. It seemed to me years ago — as it does to me now — that those stories were for them when they were little. Not for them as adults, and certainly not for others.
There were nights I lay on their bedroom floor wishing that I could rush through the telling of how Tom and Amber went camping or hiking or to the library. (I know, not real cliffhanging, high-adventure stories, but in my defense, it was bedtime.)
And now, they are older, and they don’t ask for Tom and Amber anymore. So the stories themselves, which are now scarcely recalled in any real detail, provide only a fond feeling of familiarity. And it occurred to me my fictional creations were just as impermanent as their very childhoods of my four children.
Which I suppose is the way it’s supposed to go.
In a blink, and then gone.
P.S. This past summer, we jammed all four kids into a tent when we went camping in Michigan. For the first time in years, they asked for Tom and Amber. I was happy that they couldn’t see the tears in my eyes as I told them a new adventure. (Their ages at time of the request: 8, 10, 12, and 14.)