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Still snug

I opened The Mitten and began to read.

Four of the kids crowded next to me on the couch. A fifth joined when he heard the word badger, his current favorite animal.

“I love this story…” Ryley’s whisper wove under and over and in between the fibers of Jan Brett’s words.

White as snow, a lost hand-made mitten grew. It housed each animal who found it on the forest floor. It was small when the animals were small. It was medium when the animals were medium. It was enormous when the animal was a bear.

Baba’s knitting triumphed over quill, talon, tooth, claw. The animals were snug, most likely content to ride out the night in their wooly white cave.

A mouse saw. She wriggled into the one space left…

It was too much for the bear, who sneezed when the whiskers of the mouse tickled his nose. The animals were expelled from the mitten in an explosion of fur and paw. Each scurried back to more suitable dens and nests, leaving the mitten suspended against the evening sky for the boy to see.

It dropped into his outstretched, bare hand.

He went home. Baba made sure he was safe, first.

Then she checked to see if he still had both mittens. He did.

The last illustration shows a grandmother with a silver braid framing her kind, wise face, looking at the stretched mitten in wonder. Her grandson warms himself by a fire.

It was important to my dear, late Grandma Alice that I have this book and read it to my children. She gave it to me for Christmas, seven years ago. Tonight, as I turned to the back page I read:


“I am glad to give this to you.”

Grandmothers have the gift of fashioning love well—tough but flexible, warm and soft, granting the desires of the heart with a bit of loving advice. Even in the best of families, it’s difficult to imagine how problems can move in to what was intended to be a soft, safe place—a shelter from life’s storms. But they do.

I miss my grandmothers terribly. They both died 4 years ago, this month.

Along comes something small and seemingly weak, laughable almost. You let it in, only to find it causes everything larger and more substantial to tumble out and scurry away, fur flying.

The best place to take the stretched out shell is home to the fire and the wise warmth of a mother or a father or a cherished old friend.

They may be amazed by what you’ve done.

They’ll say nothing but let you warm yourself by the fire.

That page is wordless.

7 comments to Still snug

  • edj

    Very timely. My grandmother’s birthday would have been yesterday. She died when I was 11. Our family loves that book, even though most of us are currently “too old” to read it. It will come back into vogue again though.
    .-= edj´s last blog ..The Unbearable Smugness of Jogging =-.

  • Your site hasn’t been letting me comment lately, but I sure hope it works today!

    My husband loves Jan Brett’s books. He inevitably has one in the stack when he and Anja come home from the library, and she owns two (including The Mitten).

    They are so Christmas-y, with their Scandinavian borders (Husband also loves the foreshadowing displayed there) and snow-laden pages. I’m glad your grandma gave it to you, too!

  • What a touching and beautiful story. Both the book and about grandma.

  • My late grandmother’s birthday is coming up very soon, and how I miss her. Achingly so.
    I had – and this feels magical to write – seven grandparents when I was born. SEVEN!
    But my oldest has that beat – she had 8 on the day she was born. She is down to a mere 7 now, the blessed girl.
    .-= Beck´s last blog ..It is COLD out today! =-.

  • Just lovely.
    .-= Heth´s last blog ..December? Already? =-.

  • This is Ethan’s all time favorite book! 🙂 And your grandmothers… touching and beautiful. What a blessing.
    .-= Jenn´s last blog ..Early Bird =-.

  • How did I miss this post? Must have been when I had trouble loading your blog.

    I can’t quite find the right words to write here, but you know how my heart is feeling. Oh! Grandmas and all their beauty, and how they are terribly missed when they’re gone.
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..December Views {5/6} =-.

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