One Thousand and One Nights of Editing
Reading to my kids at night is one of our family traditions besides board games, family hugs, Raclette or Taco Any-Day-of-the-Week (why only Tuesday?) and prolonged tucking ins*, just to name a few.
* Special Note for Tucking ins:
If you’re a parent you know this is the time the kids want to talk about what happened in the day, even though you TRIED to have that same conversation before, in waking hours, several times… Too bad that when my kids are ready to spill any beans usually it’s PAST BEDTIME and/or my brain cells are FRIED… but they still want to talk, they still want ANOTHER GLASS OF WATER, another ritualistic kiss (forehead, nose, cheeks, chin “oh, you skip one, mom, let’s start over”), then unexpected yet laughable farts enter the scene and even when I say “ENOUGH!” and retreat, I ended up going back to give them another kiss because I feel lousy for denying them more love, even though I’m aware that they are probably using me to postpone their zzztime. My daughter is not even tucked in literally as she doesn’t like to cover up with a blanket! And since I’m there, why not make another funny face or lift her with one arm (which I stopped doing so for lack of strength/energy and the increase of her body weight). Then it’s time to the “Breathing in, I know that I m breathing in / Breathing out / I know that I’m breathing out”, a Thich Nhat Hanh mindful breathing exercise. I am not even going to the details of the prayers for all family, friends, our pet and the world (not necessarily in this order). Then when I finally leave for the night – or they release me, the nocturnal hostage – I’m bombarded on my way out with little shouts of “I love you forever! You’re the best mom in the whole wide world” and Papa is “the best papa in the whole wide world”, magical words that have absolute power in erasing any previous stress, anxiety and fatigue even a bad hair day. I know I will miss all this someday, most likely soon, so I try to cherish these precious moments. I really do.
Sorry, I got a little bit carried away with the “tucking in” ritual.
So… Back to the reading. If the time allows it, I read to them and/or they read some parts of a story to me. Most of the time it’s an enjoyable and bonding experience. Previous readings include Alice in Wonderland, Wonder, Roald Dahl’s several books… After finishing The Chronicles of Narnia series (actually, not quite yet, as the seventh book, The Last Battle, is in a audio book format, perfect for car rides), I wanted to show the kids a different world of adventures. The classic One Thousand and One Nights sounded perfect! I got this version by Hanan Al-Shaykh, a Lebanese writer who selected nineteen stories that the wise and beautiful Shahrazade would tell the king Shahrayar each night in order to stop violence and murder. Yes, the enraged king would order the killing of the girl he slept with each night but Shahrazad’s stories kept him entertained and curious enough to spare her life and the lives of other unfortunate girls… Until the day the king finally realized that those atrocities had to end.
I assumed there would be some action, romance and mystery but nothing that would really shock the kids. Aladdin, Sinbad, genies came to my mind. I could always omit some passages, if necessary. Or so I thought. My idea was to expand their literature horizons and invite them to a magic realm of a different culture. Instead I introduce them to something else.
“Ok, guys, new book: One Thousand and One Nights.”
My son objected right away: “Are you going to read this book for one thousand and one nights?”
“No, I’m not Shahrazade but I do hope that I already achieved that number after all these years of reading for you. If not, that I will one day.”
I did start and all was going well until…
“Gradually they began to undress in a leisurely fashion, with a complete lack of inhibition,…”
“…and Shahzaman nearly cried out in surprise when he realised the ten black slave girls were in fact men, who stood with their penises erect like bayonets,…”
“… their firm buttocks jutting out as though a cup and saucer might balance on them.“
My kids jumped off bed as aimed by a jolt of electricity.
“What did you say?”
“Did you say penis, mom?”
“What’s a bayonet?”
Oh my. “Hold on. Let me check something”. No. It was out of question that I would describe to them the orgy that followed.
“Guys, theses stories are not really appropriate for your age, I’m sorry. And bayonet is a kind of a weapon that has a blade on top of a rifle, sort of”, I managed to say, I’m sure unsuccessfully trying to disguise my shock. Skipping some sentences and changing some words I could finish the first chapter to a now eager and very attentive audience.
“Penises erect like bayonets”. I’m sure they will not forget this. Neither do I.
Conclusion: now they really want to hear the stories. Ahead of me it’s One Thousand and One Nights of Editing so you can call me Shahrazad of the Words. I’m looking for a kid’s version.