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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine


by Melanie Heuiser Hill


BambiWhen I was 16, my aunt gave birth to twin boys. We did not see them nearly often enough as they were growing up (we were separated by several states), but the memories I have of those boys when they were little are clear in a way they are not with regard to my other cousins. (I’m the oldest of many cousins on that side—there were little kids everywhere for a few years.)

I remember spooning baby food into their little mouths—two-handed, hardly able to keep up. I remember catching them as they jumped off the diving board, and how hard they held onto my neck as we swam to the side. I remember their little boy energy (x2!) as they ran the circle between the living room, dining room, kitchen, and front hall in my grandparents’ house.

And I remember reading Bambi to them as if it was yesterday. The boys were almost three, I believe. We’d had a big day and they were finally bathed, in their pajamas, and it was time to settle-down for the night. I asked them to pick a book we could read together. They brought me Disney’s Bambi, a book that was almost as big as they were—they had to take turns lugging it across the room. Together they heaved it onto my lap, then climbed up on the couch and sank in beside me, one on each side.

I opened the over-sized book and started reading. They were immediately absorbed, each of them leaning into me…breathing deeply…settling down, as was the goal. I snuggled down between the two shampoo smelling darlings, blissfully happy….

I don’t know how, but I totally forgot Bambi’s mom dies. I turned the page and there she was in the upper left-hand corner, sprawled on her side, blood in the snow. I quickly adjusted my grip on the book, placing my hand over her body. I felt a flash of anger. Seriously? We had to cover maternal death before they were three?! I smoothly adjusted the words, leaving things a bit vague as to where Bambi’s mother went….

But the boys knew the story. They sat up. One moved my hand off of Bambi’s lifeless mother, and the other said, “Why did Bambi’s Mama die?”

I will never forget those sweet little faces looking up at me, anguished curiosity pooled in their big eyes. My heart broke right there and I started to cry. What could I say? Just the facts? A hunter shot her. It’s The Disney Way? The mothers always die. The truth? Sometimes horrible things happen….

I don’t know what I offered as explanation. I remember that they stood on the couch and bounced, probably trying to make me laugh instead of sob all over their book. Eventually, I pulled it together and we sank back into our cozy reading position to finish the grand saga of Bambi. As I read, one of them kept his hand on my arm, his little fingers rising and falling in a soothing pat.

One of those boys—the patter—became a father last December. The other became a father earlier this week. This is astounding to me. I look at the pictures of these grown men (they’re THIRTY now!) holding their wee babies and all I see are the faces of those sweet little boys—their impish grins, their big eyes full of love and questions, their pride and wonder at all that life holds…. The razor stubble doesn’t fool me at all—time just moves in weird ways, I guess. The babies now have babies.

They will be wonderful fathers, I’ve no doubt. I wish for them so many things, but especially the joy of reading to their kids as they grow. It’s been a favorite part of parenting for me. And it’s my favorite memory of being their cousin, too.

10 Responses to Bambi

  1. David LaRochelle January 21, 2016 at 10:35 am #

    What a wonderful story…and it shows how wise and compassionate those brothers were when they were just toddlers. My memory of reading Bambi is reading an old musty smelling copy of the Fellix Salten novel (before I had ever seen the Disney version) on a bunkbed in our basement one summer. It’s a very happy memory for me.

    • Melanie January 21, 2016 at 11:47 am #

      I’d never even considered that Bambi existed before Disney! Good grief–must look up that Salten novel!

  2. Clay S. January 21, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

    Melanie – THANK YOU for this memory of my childhood and thank you for helping Colin and I get to bed!

    Leslie and I are looking forward to sharing Bambi and many other classics with Sloane. We’re only three days into this whole parenting thing but hasn’t stopped us from leafing through books that we’ll soon be reading to our daughter.

    Hope all is well with you and yours.

    • Melanie January 21, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

      Hey Clay! So fun to hear from you. Start reading now! She’s not too young. You’ll love it and she’ll love it. Stay away from Bambi for a little while, though…. ;0) Congratulations, cuz! xoxo

  3. Sarah January 21, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

    What sweet memories – reading is so important from early on & those family connections are always there through all the miles & years. Compassionate hearts are what makes the world a happy place.

    • Melanie January 21, 2016 at 4:56 pm #


  4. Erinn January 21, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

    Such a sweet story…I am so glad they sat still and listened to someone read a story! I remember they would climb all over me. Maybe it was in the way you told the story…you are such a wonderful story teller then and now. Much love to you.

    • Melanie January 22, 2016 at 7:34 am #

      Ha! Well, like I said….they did stand up and bounce to distract me. 😉 Love to you and yours, Erinn!

  5. Holly Schermann Frigerio January 21, 2016 at 8:14 pm #

    What a sweet story!

    • Melanie January 22, 2016 at 7:35 am #

      I’ve got sweet stories about you, too, Holly! Like the time you told Burke that the creek in your backyard was “just like the ocean!” We still talk about that! xxoo

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