Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Crooked Truth

Kara's Crooked Truth: Lost and Found

When I was in college, I took a course called Writing for Children and Adolescents. One of our assignments was to present a book we loved as a child. Even though I lived on campus, my school was about half an hour away from my hometown, so it was easy for me to go home to look through my childhood books. There was only one problem.

I looked in our basement, still set up as a playroom for me and my sister, with toys and a chalkboard and a ping-pong table and a huge bookshelf. I hadn’t really looked at that shelf in years, but in my mind, it was still filled with all the books I’d read and loved. In reality, the bookshelf was empty, except for an old set of encyclopedias.

“Where are all the books?” I asked my mom.

She looked at me, confused. “I gave them all away, years ago,” she said.

As you might imagine, I was flabbergasted. And angry. I was angry at my mother, for giving all my books away so carelessly. But I was mainly mad at myself, for not noticing they were gone until now. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about those books in years. Even so, I was comforted by the knowledge that they were there, that they would be there, like everything else in our house.

My mother, hero that she was and is, called some of the other moms to whom she’d given my books, and we visited their houses together and looked through their now-grown children’s bookshelves. I managed to recover a few titles from my childhood collection, and I was able to do a pretty decent presentation for my class. But several beloved books remain lost. They include:

Two Sesame Street books, though I still can’t recall their titles. Each was a collection of vignettes, song lyrics, and comic-strip sequences, mimicking the style of the show in book form. I loved these so much as a child that I used to be able to recite them from memory — there was a particular bit about Ernie, the number five, and a chocolate cream pie that I used to do for my family. I’m sure they loved hearing it, again and again.

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. This edition wasn’t fancy, but it was illustrated with beautiful pieces of embroidered art, and it was my first exposure to poetry.

Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen. I pored over this book and brought it with me everywhere. I just loved how I felt like I was getting a tour of their farm and all their quirky animals. I almost named one of my childhood cats Lovelace, after one of the Maple Hill Farm chickens (I’m sure my mother pooh-poohed the name for several reasons, including the fact that our cat was male).

Bunny Blue by Catherine Stahlmann, illustrated by Ruth Thompson van Tellingen. This was the one I’d hoped to present to my class in college. It was the first book I ever truly loved, and it was the first one I read on my own, when I was three.

If you asked me what toys I played with when I was a child, I don’t know if I could name any, other than a ragged Snoopy I carried around like a teddy bear, which is also long gone. But I do remember those books, with tremendous longing and love. They were, really, and truly, my first friends.

Bunny Blue is the story of a stuffed blue bunny who loses his pink satin ribbon, and spends almost the entirety of the book looking for it. In the end, the ribbon is found by his owner, a little girl named Hope Ann.

          And there it was, HIS BOW, right in her hand. It had been in the toy chest all the while.
          Bunny Blue felt very foolish. But afterward, Bunny Blue was his usual happy-go-lucky self.
          For Hope Ann had sewed the beautiful, big, pink satin bow so firmly in place that he was sure he would never again lose

I don’t know these lines from memory (although, as a child, I probably could have recited them to you). More than a decade ago, when I turned thirty, my mother presented me with a copy of Bunny Blue, which she’d tracked down with the help of my resourceful sister. It’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, as it was given with so much love and understanding.

Now that I’ve been reunited with my old friend, I wouldn’t say I’m back to my “happy-go-lucky self,” as that’s never been my usual composure. But from now on, like a certain beautiful, big, pink satin bow, my beloved will remain firmly in my possession.

1 comment:

  1. My mother insisted that "The Bundle Book" was my favorite childhood picture book, but it was not. It was horrible, and confusing and I didn't even like the illustrations. Trust me, don't dig up a vintage copy!

    I did love CRICTOR, and DANDELION, and anything by Richard Scarry. And I still do!