Thursday, March 20, 2014

Stories My Father Read to Us at Bedtime

My dad had a desk job--was a merchandise manager for Dennison in Framingham, Massachusetts, a paper-products company.  Every night he pulled into the driveway at the same time, and my mother always had dinner ready.  After dinner, he'd either wash the dishes while one or two of his daughters dried or, in growing season, he worked in the garden he dearly loved.  In my memory, he often read to us after we climbed into bed.  The first three of us--Marilyn, me, and Susan were spaced four years apart.  Sally the youngest was seven years younger than Sue.  That spread is probably why I remember his reading occasionally just to me.

What did he read?  I've had fun recalling the stories.  One of Dad's favorites was Old Mother West Wind by Thornton W. Burgess.  These were gentle tales of animals with distinct personalities: Reddy Fox, Peter Cottontail, Sammy Jay, Jimmy Skunk, and many more.  The Laughing Brook provided background.  Burgess kept these tales coming for decades.  My dad loved the natural world--no wonder he enjoyed these stories featuring the denizens of the outdoors in which he grew up.

My sisters and I often clamored for a series that also featured wild animals but were a bit scarier:
Uncle Wiggley by Harold Garis.  Garis remarkably published these stories for the Newark News, six days a week for thirty years.  Uncle Wiggley is an elderly gentleman who suffers from rheumatism.   There are bad guys: the bully Pipsiseqah and the Skeezicks.  Uncle Wiggley's housekeeper Nurse Jane Fuzzy-Wuzzy keeps things calm.  I loved the endings best, I think.  They were cliff-hangers--funny cliff-hangers.  I'll try to find one and share it with you in a later post.

A rabbit also figures prominently in my most vivid memory of being read to by my father.  Hearing my dad read Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit when I was quite young entranced me.  The vividness is such that I can tell you which bedroom we were in.  (We sisters switched rooms from time to time).  What I remember best is hearing Daddy read the odd but apt words "lippety, lippety" as Peter wanders Mr. McGregor's garden, looking for the gate so he could escape.  After Peter got safely home, daddy gave me a goodnight kiss and wished me a loving "sweet dreams." I think I fell asleep murmuring "Lippety, lippety."

Did you notice that a distinguished rabbit is missing here?  It was years before I encountered B'rer Rabbit.  If I were still in academia, I'd be thinking of writing an article exploring this.

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