Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Reading with Momma
Do you know who PD Eastman is?
Who wrote Are You My Mother?
If your answer the the first question was 'no' and the second 'Dr. Seuss', you are wrong, but not alone. I always think that, too. I have to actually SEE the book to remember that it is Eastman.
Poor Mr. Eastman - I bet that happened to him a lot. Imagine cocktail parties -
Man with drink: So what do you do?
Mr. Eastman: I write children's books.
Man: I have kids. What've you written?
Mr. Eastman: Do you know Are You My Mother?
Man: Yeah, but that's Seuss.
Mr. Eastman: sigh
Since I am timid around strangers, I wouldn't have argued with him, but I probably would have walked off thinking, "What a whackaloon".
He also wrote Go, Dog, Go!, which I also always misidentify as being a Dr. Seuss book.
Are You My Mother was one of my favorite books when I was a tot. I can remember Momma reading it to me at bedtime. I can still dredge up a giggle thinking of "You are NOT my mother, you are a SNORT!" I loved, loved, LOVED being read to. Momma was a busy lady - a divorced working mom who kept an immaculate house, cooked a real dinner every night and never, ever made me feel that I was ANYTHING but treasured, important and adored and that she had all the time in the world for me and my problems. That is an amazing thing - I had a husband who was a very involved father, we went out to eat all the time, I kept house like a wolverine and I STILL regularly threatened to abandon The Child at a highway rest stop.
Looking back on it, the most amazing thing about our bedtime reading sessions was how interested and involved Momma seemed in the stories. Why, she seemed as fascinated with those stories as I was. As a parent who regularly dreamt of hunting down the Berenstain bears with a shotgun, I appreciate her acting skills. I guess that it got more interesting when I graduated to 'chapter books'. I could read from the age of 4 thanks to the bully that was the daughter of my babysitter - she came home from school every day and conducted class - a mixture of boot camp and Catholic school (or is that redundant?). Math is still a foreign language to me, but the reading stuck, somehow. But even though I could, and did, read for myself, there was something indescribably cozy and comforting about cuddling up with Momma and hearing her reading about Heidi and her grandfather, or Anne getting into scrapes, or even the insufferable Rebecca and her everlasting cheeriness (always less believable next to Anne's sincerity and very real flaws).
I always feel like I was a terrible mother when I compare myself to Momma, but I did read to The Child at least. She loved Frog and Toad and the aforementioned Bears. I traumatized her with the Narnia Chronicles - all was magic and charm until The Last Battle. She actually weathered the 'crucifixion' better than I did (I was awash, as I always am when I read it), but she was done in by the fact that Susan doesn't join them in Aslan's land. She was inconsolable and not much comforted by my theory that it only says that Susan didn't join them THEN. Later, I propounded, when she is READY, she'll surely join them. She now shares this hypothesis (I don't think she could bear not to). She grew up surrounded by books, seeing adults devote time (sometimes TOO much) to reading and talk of books and ideas. Now she's a wonderful writer, with an amazing vocabulary and a wicked sense of humor. I can't take the credit for those things, but I suspect the C.S. Lewis, Arnold Lobel and even those damned Berenstain people CAN.
P.S. I just looked it up my other favorite "Seuss" book Put Me in the Zoo....by Robert Lopshire. Cripes, do I like Dr. Seuss at all?