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").