The Slow-Cooked Sentence

A new kind of Christmas carol

Rachael Conlin Levy

My youngest builds and destroys all day long. He constructs block castles, then topples them over. He erects forts in the yard with two-by-fours and plywood, then tears them apart. He lives in leaps and rolls, tumbling through life as a young spymaster with his trigger finger cocked and his conversation peppered with explosions.


Thankfully, the  world he lives in isn’t all construction and destruction, but also includes a menagerie of characters playing the role of mother and child. In between the battles and demolition, he will turn to me and suggest that I am a mother duck or a pig (hard on my self-image) or a wolf, and he is the baby, and we’ll quack and snort and howl at each other. The other day I was conscripted into playing Mama Yoda — sandwich you must finish before cookie can you eat – until he was annoyed. And earlier this month he addressed me as “Mama log” after spending the day at Fort Nisqually’s historical celebration of the Hudson Bay Company’s trading post where he helped haul the yule log around the yard, sang carols and ate cookies.


I sighed. It’d already been a long day, and now I must anthropomorphize a piece of wood? I pulled my baby log down the hall to its room, rolled it into pajamas, then sawed on its teeth.

Sing me a song, Mama yule log.

And so I began to sing. Go to sleep, my little Ivan. Go to sleep my beautiful boy.



Log. I’m a log.

Go to sleep, my little yule log. Go to —

I’m burning.

Burn, burn, my little yule log.

Burn bright, my beautiful log.

Mama makes the fire.

Because the house is so cold.

Burn bright little yule log,

with your fire so bold.

6 responses to “A new kind of Christmas carol”

  1. Andrea says:

    So sweet. I can relate–I have a leaps and bounds kind of kid (with much more destruction than construction), and those moments of tenderness seem all the sweeter for their contrast to the usual m.o.

  2. Rachael says:

    Andrea, you’re right that I need to savor these moments. It just seems that they often follow an outburst that has tried my patience!

  3. kyndale says:

    You know what I like about kids? I love that they are totally comfortable with us and can make up all these worlds and they know we’ll play right along with them. Until we get exhausted and then, games over!

  4. Beth says:

    My sons never did the role play game with me- although my third son continually tears things apart and rebuild. Lately, he’s been asking about mechanics. He’s eleven.

    Perhaps your guy will be interested in engineering or become an entrepreneur. All that energy will certainly serve its purpose one day- and hopefully you’ll have all the energy you need to manage it until then. You’re such a good mama.

    Thanks for sharing the link. Fort Nisqually had me thinking of Annie Dillard’s book, The Living- which is a historical fiction account about the settlers who tried to carve a life out of the wt shade of Puget Sound. Have you read it?

  5. Beth says:

    Darn typos! That’s “wet” shade of Puget Sound, and put an “s” on rebuild.

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