03 March 2011

Find the What?

Good night light, and the red balloon.

If I wrote a post about the epic goodness of Goodnight Moon, all you parents, my generation and the couple of generations before, will roll your eyes at my lack of originality.

Though, does it invalidate the uniqueness of my individual experience just because millions of other mothers, fathers and children across America for the last 60 some odd years have been having a nearly identical experience? I think not! But, let us come back from the brink of philosophical humdrumedness.

Quickly, now. Come along!

One of the first books I remember being read by both of my parents is Goodnight Moon. And then I remember reading it to my little brothers, and to babysitting charges, and then to Paul at some point, as though he wasn't read it by his dutiful, reader-parents.

Presently I have, and as far back as I can remember, I have had a very, very irrational and frankly ridiculous fear of all things rodent. I am not scared of much - not snakes, not spiders, not the dark, not bad guys, not giving birth, not traveling alone, not heights, and goodness knows not public speaking. But anything with a pink tail, well, it can make me scream like the girl that I am. I have jumped on tables. In restaurants. I even had an argument once with Paul about whether rats are mammals. How dare they share not only a Kingdom and a Phylum, but a Class with me. I am not in the same (taxonomic or otherwise) Class as a Rat! And done all sorts of other things that made my husband consider taking the next train out of Dodge.

[Here is a side note about the pink-tailed description: The only reason this description is necessary is because people are always challenging this fear. I readily admit that the fear is irrational, but still, people doth protest. "But why?" But then they go further. If I say that I am afraid of rats, they want to know, "What about mice?" and when I say, "As ridiculous as it is, yes, pretty much all rodents," the people invariably say, with smart alec written all over their faces, "Well, what about squirrels?" Well, then I want to slap them upside the head. No, not squirrels, dumbo! But yes, opossums make my adrenaline start pumping. And finally, my dear friend Ragan came into my life. She shares my fear, though I don't know if she'd be quite so difficult as I am. And she remarked one day "it's those pink tails." Aaahh - Thank you, Ragan. Now I know the reason squirrels are cute and mice are evil.]

Back to sweet and wonderful children's literature.

I don't know if I actually remember this, or if I've been told with such vividness and adoration so many times, but when I was a very young child, starting not long after my first birthday and continuing, I imagine, until I was no longer being read Goodnight Moon, I played a game with my parents. On every color page of Goodnight Moon (any decent human raised in North America will remember that it alternates between color pages and black and white pages), there appears a mouse.

And I would crawl up in the as-yet-uncrowded lap of my Daddy (being a first kid and all - that empty lap is heavenly), and he would say "In the great green room..." and then, page by page, I'd get to Find the Mouse.

The mouse moves. He's in a different spot on each page. At times, he's very central to the scene - perched happily in front of the fire - and at other times, he's very peripheral - peering over the edge of an obscure bookcase. And I'd hunt. I'm sure it was developing some sort of awesome brain processing skill (though I never was good at Where's Waldo), but more than that, it was creating a memory. A memory that my Daddy cannot help retelling over and over again (he has a problem we're all fond of, and he's still quite a young man: he tells us things multiple times). But, as much as Daddy repeats himself, I've never tired of hearing of my mouse hunts.

I actually looked for the mouse. Sought out the mouse. Tried so hard to find it.
Wonder what went wrong?

(Actually - I trace my fear of all things rodent to two things: First, another story my Dad tells all the time - a story for another day - that involves a rat running up a broom handle. And secondly, seeing The Princess Bride at too young an age, and no one protecting me from the R.O.U.S. scene. And yes I just googled to put a picture here of a Rodent of Unusual Size, and I couldn't do it because my heart rate went up. Instead, a young, beautiful Carey Ewles, sporting his R.O.U.S.-inflicted injury upon emerging from the Fire Swamp: )

(Yes, I just put that parenthesis there. What would you have had me do? Put it before the picture, when clearly it belonged after? Or worse, leave it off entirely???)

I hate mice. But I used to hunt for one all over an entire book. (Perhaps because his tail does not appear pink, but white, and kind of short).

And I still do hunt for one.

Last night, Collins crawled up in my lap for a bedtime story. He picked Goodnight Moon. We haven't had the hours of Goodnight Moon with Collins that we had with Ada and Eason, or that my parents had with us. Some of that is because he is the neglected third child, but it is mostly because he has gravitated toward other books.

But last night, the little bald-headed dude plopped his as-yet-diapered bum down in my lap and opened up to those three little bears sitting on chairs. And the mouse game came flooding back to me.

I said, "Collins, can you find the mouse?" and he immediately went to looking. Searching for him. He found him in front of the fire:
"Mouse hot."
He couldn't find him by the bowl full of mush, but when I pointed out the little pink tailed demon:
"Mouse eat."

I inherited my father's tendency to repeat the stories that are most important to me. I can already see that my children will know - and know and know and know - about the mouse hunting game their grandparents played with me, and then that I played with them.

Yes, Goodnight Moon is ubiquitous, and I am not quite naïve enough to think we're the only family to play Find the Mouse, and no, Find the Mouse did nothing to inoculate me from terror at the little mammals. But, I treasure it. The book, the game, and the memory.

And so does this guy:

This pensive, mouse-hunting, low-on-hair, adventuring, happy, not-so-neglected-after all, little guy.

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