Thursday, April 15, 2010

Childhood Glue

Reading didn’t come easy to me. I don’t remember taking trips to the library with my mother. Instead, I have a vague memory of her volunteering at the school library when I was in the second grade. She used to bring home stacks of children’s books. A few that stand out are the George and Martha stories; Paddington Bear and his many adventures; The Story of Ferdinand; and Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue. She never brought home Dr. Seuss books, or Where the Sidewalk Ends.

I don’t have memories of mom reading to me and I don’t know if I was actually reading these books or if the illustrations were so vivid, they made me feel like I was reading—reading the images. I do remember being scolded for reading aloud, which helped. “You’re not supposed to read out loud. Read quietly—to yourself,” she would say. Well, now I can do what I want. I love reading out loud. Maybe she was in a bad mood that day.

Out of all the books, the one that stands in my memory as a favorite is one that is out of print: Neat-O The Supermarket Mouse by Tom Tichenor with illustrations by Ray Cruz. It could be the title that left an impression, or maybe it was the illustrations, but it stayed with me enough that I felt the need to possess it again.

I remember searching the web in a fit of nostalgia. I was searching for two childhood items: A musical toy called Major Morgan and this book. That must have been a decade ago. All that stood out was Neat-O the mouse, his mother, and soap suds—something about it stuck, but the details, the actual story were gone, out of memory. All I could go on was a vivid blur. When the book arrived, the cover was just as I had remembered. I looked at the book with wide eyes. I was that child again. There was Neat-O with his soap suds. It was all coming back. The wonderful illustrations that brought this mouse’s story to life, his kind mother loving him, the mouse bullies teasing him because he smelled too good, and Neat-O’s decision not to bathe in hopes of warding the bullies off with his stench.

Yet, with all the bullying, Neat-O was still kind. It was the love of his mother that carried him through the little bumps. I am glad to have this book back on my shelves, glad to have a little slice of my childhood sealed in those pages where I can pick the book up anytime I’d like to be transported with the images and memories, and the emotions captured in the illustrative details.

Mom didn’t always show me outward affection, but I know she loved me, and she made up for it in the stories and characters that she introduced to me. She loved me through books in the most subtle ways, that my now grow up self can appreciate and embrace. She left me clues from childhood that she must have known I would look for in adulthood; at least that’s how my imagination likes to look at it. I never know what clue I will find next. I keep adding to my collection—my everlasting collage of her memory.


keiko amano said...


Yes, I can see your mom's love to you through your blogs. You wouldn't be you without her. I know how you feel. I feel similar to my mother also. She was tough, but I really appreciate her, and my appreciation increases as I grow older. She is like the sun, amaterasuoomikami.

Luciana said...

Loved this post!
That´s all they/we leave, Rebb: clues. Keiko is right: the older we get, the more capable we are of finding them within ourselves. :-)

Rebb said...

Keiko, It feels good to be able to grow into appreciating our mothers, doesn't it? As you say, your appreciation increases as you grow older. Yes, I'm beginning to see that. "She is like the sun." That’s a lovely image, Keiko. Warming and nurturing.

Rebb said...

Hi Lu! It's so nice to see you. Thank you for your comments.

It's interesting how and when the clues come to us. It seems sometimes random, sometimes they stay in the drawers of our minds, stored away, as more clues arise. It's fascinating. Yes, Keiko's comment is true.

Vincent said...

This and your new photo make me see that you are younger than I first thought. You have the capability of inspiring me to do likewise. I now want to write a post on my first reading experiences!

Rebb said...

Vincent, I wonder too if part of why I had not posted my photo until I was ready to shed my shell was because I didn't want to be judged by my appearance immediately. People often think I am younger than I look and I'm thankful for that. And my literal verbal voice is quite young. Sometimes I feel like I'm 52, sometimes 18, and sometimes 10. I truly am a child at heart and believe I will forever remain that way in spirit until I enter the other realm.

Ah, wonderful, I look forward to reading about your first reading experiences!

I should say too that you really inspired me, Vincent, to begin posting my blogs here again, as well. I like having two places to log my musings. It's nice to share and connect.

Your essay, "Amber", really stuck with me, Vincent, and especially these lines that you wrote:

"But I see that my writing will have its greatest integrity as part of a performance labeled “Enjoying it while I can”. If in the process I can lay down a humble time-capsule, a verbal piece of amber, then that is part of the enjoyment" (A Wayfarer's Notes 4/1/10).