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Happy Mother's Day Mrs. Raccoon

When the clerk at Amaranth gave me a free chocolate bar for Mother's Day because he assumed I was one for buying baby food. I took it and ran. Not because I am a Mom, but because I have one so that counts. (The jury is still out.) Everyone who exists has one and that's pretty awesome.

Friday I got to story report on Vivo's Active Learners Preschool class and sit in on two special Mother's Day celebrations the kids put on. The adorable students danced and sang for their proud parents along with crafting a special kissing hand flower after their amazing teacher Monica read the #1 New York Times Best Selling story aloud.

For all the Robert Munsch and Berenstain Bears I grew up with, I'd never heard of this one (probably because it came out in 2007 when it was no longer socially acceptable for my Mom to read me stories as I was approaching the age of 20) and it didn't disappoint.

It'd been a while since I'd enjoyed a picture book read aloud. I watched the kids enrapt by their teacher's voice and bouncing in their tiny chairs over every page turn. Little beings hypnotized by the power of storytelling present in the oldest parts of our brains.

I really felt for Chester, the star of the picture book - a raccoon who would rather stay at home than go to school. As a quiet and shy little kid who lived in books and is still highly sensitive, the outside world equals an often scary overdose of stimulus.

In her foreword to Penn's raccoon story, Jean Kennedy Smith notes that the story is "for any child who confronts a difficult situation, and for the child within each of us who sometimes needs reassurance."

Mrs. Raccoon, Chester's Mom who tells her son "I know a wonderful secret that will make your nights at school seem as warm and cozy as your days at home." (That part confused me - raccoon boarding school already?) Kissing his palm, Chester feels the kiss "rush from his hand, up his arm, and into his heart."

Whenever he gets lonely, she advises, he is to press his hand to his cheek and "that very kiss will jump to your face and fill you with toasty warm thoughts."

Chester, in turn kisses his mother's palm so that she, too, will be reassured.

As I watched the little kids listen to the story of Chester the raccoon, pressed up against their own loving Mothers, about to embark on their preschool graduation in a few weeks and the off to enter the world of kindergarten in the fall, I thought of all the many steps we take away from our primary relationships and all the ones that lead us back.

When I wished my own Mom a Happy Mother's Day in a voicemail today, I couldn't emphasize the love and appreciation Chester communicated but I tried. It's all we can do. That and dancing unabashedly which the kids absolutely nailed if you ask me. If you're reading this and you are a Mom, I don't know how you do it - but please keep going and thank you.

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