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Saturday, June 17, 2006


I learned to read at an early age, and one of my old rituals at bedtime was Lights Out.  It began as reading together with Mom at my bedside, then evolved into my reading by myself in bed until Mom (usually) or Dad would yell from the living room, "lights out," when I was to stop reading, turn out my light and go to sleep.

We also did those Montessori school flashcard things--I have vivid memories of sitting on a bright red, shaggy rug in my playroom in our house in Warren, PA, with Mom quizzing me.  One word I had a total mental block on was 'been', which I'd inevitably pronounce as 'bean'.  Mom would patiently remind me of the correct way to say it.  Stupid English.  Anyway, I still have that card--used to have it up in my office as a reminder that being challenged is the only way to learn.

A big argument I remember having with Mom was when I was about 5 and we were reading the Berenstain Bears' The Bear Scouts, one of my favorite books.  At one point Papa Bear is making some stew out of twigs and mushrooms and other crap to show the kids "how it's done".  When he tastes the disgusting conconction he bellows, "Phoooey!" 

I insisted that the word was 'puh-hooey' and refused to believe that the 'ph' combination made an 'f' sound.  For what was to not be the last time, I was absolutely convinced Mom was wrong.  Stupid English.

Another favorite book was Are You My Mother?

Just then the baby bird saw a big thing.

"Are you my mother?" he asked.

The Big thing said, "Snort!"

"Oh, no!" said the baby bird.

"You are not my mother.

You are a scary snort!"

Even as an alleged adult I have been known say, "You're not my mother!  You're a SNORT!" when confronted with obvious-yet-staggering realizations--and sometimes in other contexts.  My reading comp has improved a little bit in the intervening years, though.  I think.  Stupid English.


PS--I found a great condensed version of Are You My Mother?

June 17, 2006 | Permalink


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I would love to be your mother.

What a wonderful one you had. She and your father sure raised an incredible child.

Posted by: pie | Jun 17, 2006 7:54:54 PM

I loved the Snort part of the book but was irritated that the mother had to wear the stupid kerchef to identify her sex and wandered off neglecting her motherly duties. The comforting rhythmic question and answer: 'Are you my mother? I am not your mother. I am a cow.' (The cow obviously had an Eleanor Roosevelt voice). The book is a classic.

Now Papa Berenstain spitting out that soup made a real impression on me more than my kids. How much did he swallow? What did he put in? How toxic was it? How far is the hospital and who can drive the car?

They made Papa the goofus as an example, but his loss of dignity and respect bothered me. Needless to say, I have saved all the children's books my kids had, ripped and chewed and loved.

Posted by: ellroon | Jun 17, 2006 8:13:29 PM

I had trouble with the name of the fast food chain, Whataburger. I recall saying it more like "water-booger."

There's a strong, early memory of being nestled in the crook of my father's arm as he read to me.

Also as a lad, I recall my mother earnestly insisting that "black" was rude, and the polite term was "colored."

They've been gone ten years now. One never stops recalling little bits of the family tapestry.

Posted by: Uncle Smokes | Jun 17, 2006 8:21:01 PM

After seeing your Mom's picture, I posted a couple songs for NTodd's Pa on my site. I'm just imagining the wonderful times they shared and the love they had for each other.

Long distance dedication

Maybe a moment, a smile, some relief..

Posted by: Ripley | Jun 17, 2006 9:12:06 PM

Huh.. Well, if that link doesn't work -


Posted by: Ripley | Jun 17, 2006 9:18:35 PM

Thank you, Ripley. I miss her so very much.

Posted by: NTodd's Pa | Jun 18, 2006 3:37:11 AM

We have those redacted Eastman books for the kids. Thers calls Go Dog Go, Faux Dog Faux.

What a lovely dedication, Rip.

Posted by: NYMary | Jun 18, 2006 5:34:37 AM

Duh, this is the condensed AYMM? that we have.

Yes, they actually do make redacted versions of these, real ones. But they're board books, so a litle harder for Hurrican Rosie to destroy.

If Babyblogging would cheer you up.....

Posted by: | Jun 18, 2006 6:05:47 AM

Redacted Eastman.

I'm done correcting myself now.

Posted by: NYMary | Jun 18, 2006 6:07:12 AM

Emily has offered to send you her battered and bruised copy of "Are you my Mother"...warning if it were in the Velveteen Rabbit it would be real.

Posted by: rugo | Jun 18, 2006 7:09:32 AM

Are You My Mother was one of my favorites, too. And the girls and I just read the board book version this morning. Stella has Go, Dog, Go from the library. She's been reading it to me and I thought the art looked similar to AYMM, so this morning we discovered that they are both P.D. Eastman. And so she wanted me to read AYMM. I have always read it as "Mama" instead of "Mother" and changed the baby from "he" to "she." Now that Stella can read, I asked her if she wanted me to read it as written or as we always have. She chose the latter.

Posted by: ina | Jun 18, 2006 8:58:33 AM

When I was young, my mother not only read Are You My Mother to me (and to all of my siblings in turn), but she did special voices for the different animals -- a lowing voice for the cow, a New York accent for the dog, and a great deep voice for the Snort.

Funny thing is, when I was reading that book to my daughter, I found myself doing the same voices for her.

Posted by: Nora | Jun 18, 2006 11:07:40 AM

In what way is "been" not homophonous with "bean" (and rhyming with "seen")? Are you one of these folks in whose native idiolect "been" sounds like "bin"? Being a Canadian, I must vouch for the supremacy of sharp, pointy vowels! :)

My favourite book as a child was my mother's old copy of Eloise In Moscow. I found it again and read it when I was about eighteen, and laughed myself hoarse. If I ever wind up teaching university-level English literature, I'm going to use it as an illustration of the concept of the "naive narrator."

Posted by: Interrobang | Nov 5, 2006 7:09:46 PM

Bravo. "Dohiyi Mir" I just love saying it.

Posted by: HopeSpringsATurtle | Feb 15, 2014 9:36:14 AM

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