Tuesday, October 19, 2004

O, Best Beloved, Where Art Thou?

My copy of The Just So Stories is missing in action. I have so many stacks of stuff at home and at work, and it's just got to be here somewhere. Rudyard could probably explain that CollageMama "humphed" instead of filing and putting things away ever since the work began, and she will just have to deal with it. And wouldn't Rudyard be a good name for a junkyard dog?

I am one of the world's luckiest inhabitants. My mother rocked me in the yellow Eames rocking chair when I was tiny, and read Kipling to me in the mornings after Captain Kangaroo and the Arthur Godfrey Show ended. Arthur Godfrey had a ukelele, and the Captain had Mr. Moose, Bunny Rabbit, the ping-pong balls, Mr. Green Jeans, the Banana Man, the Magic Drawing Board, Bainter the Painter, Dancing Bear, and stories. Oh, what wonderful, gentle stories! Caps for Sale, The Littlest Snowman With the Red Candy Heart, Ping, Make Way for Ducklings, Millions of Cats, Stone Soup, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel!

I put together a whole curriculum for a summer art/drama camp about Australia because the Captain used to sing "Waltzing Matilda" forty years ago. I still wish a jolly swagman would sit beside my billibong and eat marzi doats and doesi doats. Some of my strangest nightmares may have origins in the Magic Drawing Board's version of "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea." Bob Keeshan was the genius that defined my childhood, even more than Dick, Jane, and Sally.

I even saw Captain Kangaroo IN CONCERT! Yes, at Lincoln's Pershing Auditorium. It was a totally big girl event. A babysitter was engaged to deal with my brother and sister. I'm nearly fifty, and I've never felt more grown-up than going to that event.

When a story begins, "O, Best Beloved," you know you will be traveling in a special jungle. It is the same as, "Once upon a time," but without the shining armor. I am sad when people reduce the Kipling experience to the thumbnail plot outline. Kipling is all about language; words, wonderful words, swirling in dust storms across the outback or wallowing in the great grey-green Limpopo River, more patterned than a bicolored python rock snake, and absolutely feeding my "satiable curiotity"."O, Best Beloved," the stories would begin, and my mom and I still call each other Best Beloved (pronounced Bee-luv-Ed). Did I obsess that I would be spanked by adults as the Elephant's Child was spanked by his aunts and uncles because of his endless questions? Of course not. Did I go out and paint myself with fingertips dipped in mud like the leopard? Well, only that one time, and I'm almost over feeling guilty.

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