Monday, August 14, 2006

If you are a dreamer, come in

Late as usual, I'm chiming in on Mrs. Davis's Sesame Street Celebration.

If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar

When Jo was a baby, after we got past the first several weeks of survival mode--the incessant feed/clean/sway to sleep/collapse/feed/clean/sway to sleep cycles--and she began staying awake and alert for minutes at a time, I was flummoxed. What was I supposed to do? She couldn't move or talk or wash the dishes. I knew she needed to hear my voice, to absorb language, storing it up in her chipmunk cheeks for later. But I didn't know what to say. Narrating the happenings inside our four walls got old fast. So did baby board books.

Then Shel Silverstein came to my rescue. Some wise person had given us a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends as a baby gift. So once or twice or five times a day, after a feeding, I'd settle Jo in my lap or next to me in her Boppy and read her its poems.

A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...

It's not just the sentimental poems, and the hysterical ones, and the sly line drawings accompanying them. I read nonstop as a kid, but I specifically remember when I first read Sidewalk and why. My mother had to go to Washington, D.C. for some kind of business trip, and she took me with her. Just me, not my younger brother and sister. Swee-eet! I was eight. We stayed with her friend Judy in the amazing brownstone she lived in with her family in Adams Morgan (pre-gentrification). I later went to a day camp in D.C. for two successive summers, staying in that house for a month at a time, so I remember the silliest details: How the playroom walls were painted a color called "paper bag," how it was so close to the zoo that I could hear the animals roaring and hooting early in the mornings, how Judy served stuffed peppers to her little boys and her husband called them "monkey brains."

If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire

So we drove to D.C. for our big mother-daughter trip. We were going to hang out with Judy, see the sights, just generally have some QT. I had, of course, been looking forward to it for weeks and weeks. And what happens? I get sick. I spent the whole trip in bed at Judy's house and didn't get to do anything fun at all. To make it up to me, and to help me pass the time, my mother bought me this book.

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.

I read it over and over again during that trip, and then on and off again for years until it resurfaced on my baby's bookshelf. Now, I read it with Jo and we crack up together over Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout (who would not take the garbage out) and little Peggy Ann McKay (who cannot go to school today) and the boy whose "baby brother ran away, and now my tuba will not play" (he's "eight years old and turning grey").

Come in!
Come in!


Ickle me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too said...

Shel Silverstein?

We've never heard of him.

lildb said...

I wasn't allowed to have this book (all part and parcel of the fabulous, fascinating fundie christian belief system - anything not sold at a xtian bookstore is BAD NEWS). I read my friends' copies. I loved them. esp. the garbage one.

my husband's copy still makes my heart beat just a wee bit faster, when I read it, b/c I have that ancient, leftover feeling that I'm committing a heinous act. ain't that sweet?

I love that you read it with your kiddo, and have such fond memories of it from childhood. that makes my blight on it seem less icky. :p

Lady M said...

I almost picked this one too! I have fond memories of Mrs. Koehler reading out loud to us in 3rd grade. I picked up my copy years later at the university bookstore, and I thank you for pointing out that I don't need to wait until Q is older to start reading it to him!

When you're a bird
Be an early bird
and get the worm for your breakfast plate.

When you're a bird
be an early bird
but if you're a worm
sleep late.

Or some approximation of those words.

Mother said...

My fave? (I still remember it)

There's too many men in this tub
There's too many elbows to scrub
I just washed a behind
And it sure wasn't mine
There's too many men in this tub

(all by memory, tyvm).

bubandpie said...

I've somehow managed to miss Shel Silverstein my whole life (I sense a trip to the bookstore in the offiing).

The image of waking up to the sound of the zoo animals hooting and roaring - incredible.

Mom101 said...


I should just erase my post today and type in: see Mayberry Mom.

You have great taste lady. Of course.

mothergoosemouse said...


As usual, right on the same page with you. Tacy took "A Light In the Attic" to school last week to share with her class.

(Her teacher's fave poem is Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout!)

Jamie said...

I love that book (my childhood copy is somewhere in storage and I must retrieve it!) and I love this story you shared. My mom gave me my copy and I believe I was about 8, too.

Tree said...

Fantastic memories and making wonderful ones with your own children.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled upon your blog, and aboslutely had to leave a comment!

I read your archives and had to thank you for your post back in May (I think) on daycare. I teach at a local daycare, and I cried when I read your entry!

It is so wonderful to hear someone who appreciates all that we do for their children. It's not always an easy job, but comments like yours remind me why I do it every day.

I can't say thank you enough. You made me look forward to going to work today to see all the smiling & happy faces that I miss so much after they leave. I'm hooked on your blog now!


supa said...

I love shel silverstein.

Mayberry said...

Kelly, thanks so much for your comment! What you said is exactly why I wrote that post, so I am glad you appreciated it. Thanks for reading.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Hello, I found your blog by following links from BlogHer.

We got Where the Sidewalk Ends from the library about 2 months ago. My four-year-old son was completely fascinated with Jimmy Jet and the TV Set. I could see him processing it -- the idea of becoming a TV set. I put the book up for later because he's a bit too literal still!

Mrs. Davis said...

I love Where the Sidewalk Ends! But I honestly have not seen a copy of it since I was in about 6th grade. After reading this, I've got to get my hands on a copy for my sons right away!

TB said...

I can see why this is one of your favorite posts. I've been going through my library of books saved from childhood and adding to it for my son in an Amazon registry. This was at the top of my list.

Christina said...

I love Shel Silverstein, too. I had the books as a young child, and read them all the time. Where the Sidewalk Ends is great. I need to retrieve those books from my mom.

The poem about the unicorns always made me cry, though.