Friday, 11 September 2009

Lita Belle's Hope Chest

Lita Belle has a hope chest ... not one filled with linens and silver for her eventual marriage ... more like a safe place her mother will store mementoes as she grows from babyhood through childhood until she reaches an age when her mother will pass these precious memories onto her. The letter I wrote to accompany her chair is in there. I was touched ... and it gave me an idea.

All the pieces I make come with a short description ... a history. I looked at the little cradle that is still a work in progress and decided to take a break from painting to write the history. It turned into a story ... one that I hope some parent or grandparent will treasure and save for another little Lita Belle. Here it is.

The Story of the Sleepytime Cradle

This cradle came via friends from a garage sale in Old Hull ... one of those places that have sales every weekend. It is made of plywood and I imagine that some father or grandfather made this for a treasured child for her birthday or Christmas many years ago. It was stained dark and was quite rough around the edges. I decided that it needed to be lightened up. It needed a story.

I prepared the surfaces and painted on two coats of periwinkle blue. Then I began to think about the images. I wanted it to be a story for a little girl who resisted sleep, one that would encourage her to welcome bedtime.

Here is my story, but of course images create many stories, not just one. I imagined a little girl tucking her doll babies in before slipping into her own bed for the night. I hoped that this would become part of her own bedtime ritual, and that she would delve into the stories she heard and into her own imagination to create her own stories, ones that would help her to have sweet dreams.

The Bedtime Story

Once, not so long ago, there lived three little sisters who hated to end their play when night fell. Daisy was six, Mandy was five, and Sam was four. Every night they talked and played (and sometime fought) long after their mother turned out the light. Their parents wondered how they could get them to go to sleep earlier.

They tried putting a night light in the room, but Sam said the light kept her awake.

They told the girls to count sheep till they fell asleep, but Sam was not very good at counting so that didn't work.

They tried giving the girls Hobbit tea with creamy dandelion honey in it before bed, but Sam didn't like the taste.

They tried putting them in separate rooms, but Mandy and Sam always found their way back to Daisy because they missed her. Even though they sometimes fought because they were so tired, they still wanted to snuggle up together at bedtime.

Then things changed. Daisy learned to read. She began to bring home wonderful books from the library, and every night, at bedtime, she read a story to Mandy and Sam. Sometimes, if their parents were tired too, everyone climbed into the big bed to read their bedtime stories.

Once in a while they still needed to count sheep, but not very often.

Now that they were hearing bedtime stories every evening, the girls were anxious to get to sleep so that the next adventure could begin, and it almost always did.

As soon as their eyes closed and their breathing slowed, the three little sisters would climb on the back of a beautiful white horse that visited almost every night. He would spread his wings and carry them as softly as a cloud out, out, off into the night sky. They saw wondrous sights as they skimmed the rooftops and floated over the church steeples of the towns on their way to the magic of Dreamland.

Sometimes the white horse would fly low enough for them to peek into the lighted windows of houses. Once they flew over the forest where Goldilocks and the Three Bears lived, and the horse swooped down low enough for them to see inside a little cottage.

Sam said, "Look! There's Papa Bear in his night cap."

Daisy said, "He must have fallen asleep reading."

And Mandy said, "I think his Hobbit tea put him to sleep."

Another time they flew up through dense clouds and discovered a whole other world they had not known existed ... and what do you think they saw there?


I hope that your little girl will enjoy playing with this doll cradle as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Oma at the Happy Hermitage, Pike Lake, Wakefield, Quebec.

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