Despite my love of literature for young children, I must confess that I never cared much for one of the most beloved children’s books, Goodnight Moon written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd. It is a simple story, in which an old rabbit is helping a young rabbit go to sleep by saying “Goodnight” to the various things in and around their bedroom. I think I didn’t like it mostly because Hurd’s illustration style just didn’t appeal to me. It even struck me as a bit creepy.
I felt I needed to keep this opinion on the down-low when I was getting my MA in Children’s Literature at Hollins University because Brown went to Hollins. There were frequent references to her throughout my years there. One of the main gathering spaces was nicknamed the “Great Green Room.” We wondered occasionally about the connections between the bunnies hopping around our bucolic campus and Brown’s multiple rabbit books. A professor talked about how she heard Brown speaking to her during her own writing process. Needless to say, I mentioned my lack of total appreciation of Brown and Hurd’s beloved book to only my closest confidantes.
However, in the past few months, I have been reevaluating my earlier stance. Don’t get me wrong: I still am not excited about Hurd’s illustrations. But I’m starting to see that Brown’s text was rather genius particularly as a bedtime book.
Many of you know that I have a habit of falling asleep quite quickly, perhaps in some awkward or inappropriate places. However, when I am in a particularly busy or stressful season of life, my mind is on overdrive, and it can take me quite some time to calm down enough to fall asleep. Let’s just say that between job searching, writing and defending my dissertation, transitioning to life in a pandemic, and continuing to consider how I can respond to the realities of systemic racism, there have been quite a number of thoughts racing through my mind in the last year.
Several months ago, I started saying “Goodnight” to the various things that popped into my mind as I was trying to fall asleep:
“Goodnight, Chapter 5 of my dissertation.”
“Goodnight, Chapter 3 revisions.”
“Goodnight, email to … that person I have to email.”
“Goodnight, telehealth appointment I need to make before my student insurance runs out.”
And so on, just like the young rabbit says goodnight to the moon, to the comb, and the brush, and the bowl full of mush.
It may seem silly, but I found that once I had said “Goodnight,” to these different thoughts and concerns in my mind, I could let them go for the time being. One by one, I could put the items in my cluttered mind to bed. I wasn’t dismissing these thoughts; I wasn’t telling them “Goodbye.” That wouldn’t have worked because none of the things I was thinking about were insignificant. But by simply saying, “Goodnight,” I could recognize that we would rejoin company the next day, but for now, I needed my rest.
A few weeks ago, I successfully defended my dissertation, thanks to the help of more people than I can count who have supported me along this journey. After I made the revisions my committee desired, I finally submitted the final version of my project. It might seem that after all this time and work, I could finally say “Goodbye” to my dissertation, not just “Goodnight.” However, it is expected that I publish off of this writing in the coming years, and I’m eager to do so.
This time, though, instead of saying, “Goodnight, dissertation (and see you tomorrow)!” I am needing to say, “Goodnight, dissertation (and see you in a few weeks),” because I have a new set of pressing thoughts to tuck into bed each night.
I mentioned that over the course of the last year, I was applying to professor jobs across the country. After much work and discernment, I accepted a faculty position at Millersville University in eastern Pennsylvania in the Department of Early, Middle, and Exceptional Education. A while ago, Mike and I also bought a house in Millersville, although because I’m teaching remotely for the fall semester, we likely won’t be moving until the break between terms. I feel incredibly fortunate to be at Millersville—I have been welcomed and supported from Day 1, and I truly believe it will be a good fit for so many reasons. Speaking of Day 1, days after hearing that my dissertation was finalized, I jumped into the semester and just finished my first week of teaching on Friday.
As I look back on the past few months, I am a bit exhausted, but I am also astonished and grateful at how things have fallen into place for us. I find myself saying new “Goodnights” each evening:
“Goodnight, neighbor boy who is mowing our lawn while we’re in Ohio.”
“Goodnight, figuring out how to host Zoom breakout rooms.”
“Goodnight, emails to students.”
“Goodnight, HR paperwork.”
“Goodnight, minor cricket infestation in a basement 7 hours away.”
“Goodnight, imposter syndrome.”
“Goodnight, furniture we should maybe get rid of before we move.”
And so on.
So, as I transition from one chapter of life to another, I am finding that Margaret Wise Brown isn’t exactly speaking to me, but her words are providing a structure for me as I speak to my own life. I’d be curious to know what words have done the same for you.
Have a good week,