Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Dancing around, reminiscing about childhood. In Dear Abby recently, someone wrote in to ask what is the next line in an old nursery rhyme they remembered. Yesterday and today, response letters were printed. I didn't recall the quoted fragment from the earlier letter, "if "ifs" and "ans" were pots and pans," but a reader yesterday said the following line is "there would be no need for tinkers." They also reported that the beginning of the poem is "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride; if turnips were watches, I would wear one by my side." That part rang a bell, and got me hunting for an old book. (Yes, hunting, not looking.) Most of the people who wrote in to Abby probably are older than me, and they recalled their mothers or grandmothers quoting the verse to them. The book I am seeking is called something like Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes, and I think it was second hand at the time it was given to my mother by her grandmother. This is not precise, because the hunt was stalled by the sudden memory of the book on a bookshelf at the other house in Samsonville. As I recall, it was in need of TLC even before I read it many times as a kid. And even then I knew that a few of the rhymes were not PC (we didn't call it that, though). Anyway there's something else I will do this weekend besides swim!

Tidbits on BlogSisters about children's freedom and safety in the past and today; about playing sports as a girl; also about children's fantasy stories in books and popular movies. Then, Elaine wrote a couple posts on related subjects - vintage copies of children's literature, and the innovative sharing of books. I love everything about the idea of, but my attachment to my volumes makes it hard to part with all but duplicate copies (except for Mark Twain, where I jealously guard the dupes too), even if this obsession makes it hard to fit anything bigger than a loveseat in the livingroom (it's tight, but two humans, two canines, and a feline manage fine). Unless I weeded books I didn't care for much; but who wants to spread those?

Anyway, I expanded my hunt somewhat and came up with five children's books from days gone by. Three my mother gave me as a gift for my birthday last year: Little Pets Pleasure Book (n.d.), The Three Little Kittens (1922), and Noah's Ark (1889). The latter belonged to Edna Merrihew, a distant relative that we discovered by accident in our genealogy quest. Some papers of hers were among the contents of an old house that my cousin, who sells antiques, acquired. The illustrations are gorgeous! A fourth is Peter and Polly in Autumn (1918); this is a book that my mother and her brother read at the Bushkill School. It is for more advanced beginning readers and I liked it a lot when I was a kid, too. The last is from my own carefree, headed to the general store on a spider bike without a helmet days as a supremely "non-jock," also "non-girly" girl, and it is Pinocchio, a very brief, but wonderful living story book version from 1960.

I don't know what became of the longer Pinocchio story that my father read to me over and over when I was small, but last year I bought a 1986 English translation of the original and read it through. It had lost none of its charm. I am remembering the pair of marionettes, Pinocchio and Gepetto, that Daddy would dance around, acting out the story and other adventures. How much I protested when they had to go to sleep in their shoe box home, to have their strings untangled the following day. They now are suspended from the rafters in the garage at my parents' house, and over the years those two have acquired some peers in a pair of puppets my brother got in Mexico, and a space man complete with green lightbulb head that my father made as part of a Halloween costume. The puppet who wanted to be a real boy and his woodcarver father, after a long break, expanded their repertoire a few years ago, and in the company of the other marionettes (sans the space man, however) they made a couple of appearances on a cardboard stage that once was a washing machine box, taking part in a parody of the puppeteer's favorite show on the Nashville Network.

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