Saturday, June 25, 2011

O.K.--So I'm Not Maurice Sendak

I can see that these three-hour drives home from the grandkids' house have the potential to be deadly.   Driving behind assorted behemoths of farm equipment that virtually crawl along the highway, I have learned, does not always lend itself appropriately to waxing poetic, or attempting to do so.  It has been one of those painful lessons that, at this age, I would just as soon not have to suffer through.  I would prefer to think that I have made a fool of myself sufficiently for this lifetime. and, in the event of reincarnation, several subsequent ones.

However, I am willing to swallow my shame and embarrassment in the hope that I might spare even one of my fellow googies from humiliation of the caliber I have caused myself today.  First, let me set the scene.  Confession time.  Lie back on the couch. Twist the kleenex nervously.  Take a deep, shuddering breath, and begin slowly.

My first mistake was indulging one of my major weaknesses.  Yes, on my way to Sooby and Pooh's house, I stopped at a garage sale.  Worse than that, it was a garage sale IN UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY.  A red flag should have shot up and waved me frantically away, but instead it seemed to beckon me to stop.  I should have known better.

As luck would have it, this particular garage sale featured--no, flaunted--an impressive assortment of quality children's books for a quarter apiece.  I picked up two for each kid, and dropped a buck.  They would make good bedtime material for last night, I thought, and they did not disappoint.

The star of the show was Chicken Soup With Rice by Maurice Sendak.  In it, Sendak, probably best known for his children's classic Where the Wild Things Are, writes a ten-line rhyme for each month of the year.  The verses are brilliant, fraught with the kind of alliterative, repetitive, internally rhyming magic that mesmerizes children to the point where they ask for the piece to be read again and again.  I swear the sweet sounds even made a zombie of Baby Bootsie, who is going on nine months.  In a word, Sendak's book is a masterpiece (with the most fascinating and conversation-provoking segment being "October," but that's another story).

Fast forward to my trip home, where Sendak's lyrical lines spin through my head while I am nearly blinded by loose hay blowing off the huge trailer lumbering down the road in front of me at fifteen miles per hour.  In a momentary delusion of grandeur, I think to myself, "I could have written that."  Well, to paraphrase the old saying, "Pride goeth before a miserable flop."  Read on.

           Miserable Flop

Winter, summer, spring, and fall
Make up the times of year we call
The seasons--and when each is o'er,
You'll find you've grown a little more.

Summer sizzles in the heat.
Sunshine warms your hands and feet
When you stay outside all day
To swing and slide and hide and play.

Fall is full of autumn leaves
That stop atop the roofs and eaves,
Then tumble down to grow in stacks
Where you can do your jumping jacks.

Winter's white is ice and snow;
Its blustery winds will gust and blow;
And winter's frigid arctic cold
Will make your coat worth more than gold.

Spring is when a robin red
Will sing while you are still in bed;
Dandelions leave the ground,
And breezes blow their seeds around.

Hours and minutes stretch to day
While clocks tick-tock the time away.
Days to weeks and months to year--
While seasons make the changes clear.

Oh puh-leez!  Stop me now.  I have sinned.  I have printed this drivel on the same page where I have referred to the noble and worthy Maurice Sendak.  I hang my head and vow to start a 12-step program.  I promise not to go to another garage sale until at least Thursday.  I am serious about this.

Let me critique myself and save you the trouble:  trite, forced, tired imagery, didactic.  I can't believe I composed such a travesty.  I also find it a stretch to believe I would publish it here, in full view of  many people who know me and, in many cases, used to respect me as at least a semi-poet.

However--as a footnote--let me hasten to add a word in my own defense.  Sooby and Pooh both slept with me last night.  This means I probably did not get quite as much sleep as usual, and perhaps my creative thinking capacity was in some way compromised (weak excuse).  Also, I most likely became very agitated by setting a world record for the longest time taken to travel by vehicle from Topeka to Lawrence, Kansas (now I'm whining). 

But the real problem?  The real problem is that Maurice Sendak in all his masterful genius already composed the ultimate seasonal verse for children.  Nothing else can touch it.  If you haven't experienced the poetic pleasure of his Chicken Soup With Rice, do yourself a favor and check it out.  Share it with a special little person you know.  I promise you won't be sorry.



  1. Oh, sweet are too harsh on yourself. If only my well-rested mind would come up with such a verse :)

  2. It's not Maurice Sendak--I love Chicken Soup, too--but it's not bad. When your grands are a little older, it would be great fun to print it up and let them illustrate it. It's not Maurice Sendak, but it was written by their Googie. That makes it special.