The Ritual of THE END

This is a memory from the time when I am five and my little brother is two.

On weekday evenings, my mother, brother, and I do a small reading time before bedtime. After dinner and a bath, we all sit on the floor in our pajamas next to our family couch – because the couch is too hard and uncomfortable for us to sit upon. We then pick one story from the collection we have borrowed from the library last weekend.

Some nights, we read a picture book from one of our favourite series: The Eleven Cats (adventures of eleven cats), The Ten Frogs (adventures of ten frogs), and the Nontan series (a daily life of a mischievous male kitten with his forest friends). My brother and I sit on both sides of our mother, and as she reads the story, we point at the funny details of the picture and ask why the story is unfolding in the way it is.

Other nights, my mother reads us a picture story show (kamishibai in Japanese). She sits on the couch holding up the large picture story show in her hands, and my brother and I sit on the floor looking up at the picture. Once my mother starts reading the story from behind the picture, our excitement explodes. My brother says something about the picture, I add my own comment, my brother says something else, and so on. We are non-stop chatting throughout the picture story show, so much so that my mother is often forced to intervene to bring back order.

When the story finally comes to an end, two words appear on the last page of the picture story show in large bold lettering: “THE END.” This is always when my brother jumps to his feet and rushes to that final page my mother is holding.

“THE. END.” He points his finger at each word as he slowly and deliberately pronounces the two words. I suspect that this is his favourite part of the whole picture story show, to announce to everybody in the room the end of the show as well as his ability to read and pronounce these important words.

“That’s right, Sweetie,” my mother’s smile kicks up a notch. “It says ‘The End’! Good job!”

Ignoring this all-too-predictable dialogue, I start preparing for our next activity before bedtime.