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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