Why does the night so frighten children? I’m still not so keen about night–sometimes it seems so long until the darkness fades into the warmth of day. I found this poem and it absolutely captures the discomfort sometimes felt during those long nights of childhood fears.
At times my life suddenly opens its eyes in the dark. A feeling of masses of people pushing blindly through the streets, excitedly, toward some miracle, while I remain here and no one sees me. It is like the child who falls asleep in terror listening to the heavy thumps of his heart. For a long, long time till morning puts his light in the locks and the doors of darkness open.
An extended metaphor of personal significance.
When I taught you at eight to ride a bicycle, loping along beside you as you wobbled away on two round wheels, my own mouth rounding in surprise when you pulled ahead down the curved path of the park, I kept waiting for the thud of your crash as I sprinted to catch up, while you grew smaller, more breakable with distance, pumping, pumping for your life, screaming with laughter, the hair flapping behind you like a handkerchief waving goodbye.
This poem is for all you teachers out there, and yes, to you students as well. We ask a question, and know our students know the answer, but there is such a reluctance to share the knowledge, unless you are the student who always has the willingness. What about the others? This poem helps to unravel the mystery of the reluctant hand.
“The Children’s Hour” was first published in the September 1860 edition of The Atlantic Monthly.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was probably one of the first poets encountered as a child. Who hasn’t encountered his “Song of Hiawatha?” He is well known for many poems, and one of my favorites is his tribute to his children. I can imagine his little “banditti” sneaking up on him and him gathering them up all shrieks and giggles.
Between the dark and the daylight, When the night is beginning to lower, Comes a pause in the day’s occupations, That is known as the Children’s Hour. I hear in the chamber above me The patter of little feet, The sound of a door that is opened, And voices soft and sweet. From my study I see in the lamplight, Descending the broad hall stair, Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra, And Edith with golden hair. A whisper, and then a silence: Yet I know by their merry eyes They are plotting and planning together To take me by surprise. A sudden rush from the stairway, A sudden raid from the hall! By three doors left unguarded They enter my castle wall! They climb up into my turret O’er the arms and back of my chair; If I try to escape, they surround me; They seem to be everywhere. They almost devour me with kisses, Their arms about me entwine, Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine! Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti, Because you have scaled the wall, Such an old mustache as I am Is not a match for you all! I have you fast in my fortress, And will not let you depart, But put you down into the dungeon In the round-tower of my heart. And there will I keep you forever, Yes, forever and a day, Till the walls shall crumble to ruin, And moulder in dust away!
I feel fortunate to have grown up in the golden age of television. Walter Cronkite fathered us through the news. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore broke ground for weekly family shows, Carol Burnett entertained us, and Captain Kangaroo and other grown ups clowning around got me giggling.
Here are some of the TV babysitters I remembered. For that’s what they did while Mom did what she had to do around the house.
The show ran for nearly thirty years, from 1955 to 1984. I don’t remember much except Mr. Greenjeans and something about ping pong balls and a moose.
I have since learned Soupy Sales was a bit of a bad boy, always pushing those censor buttons. But, hey, as a kid, did I know this? I remember lots of pies and Fang.
Those were the national shows I remember. I was fortunate enough to have had several local talented hosts to kept me amused. If you grew up in the Greater Northwest area you might remember:
She was calm and reassuring and she did indeed add a bit of learning to every show.
Memories of a guy playing the accordion, a catchy theme song, and a basset hound.
Trains. I mainly remember trains and his sidekick donkey. Oh, here’s a fun fact. Brakeman Bill was invited to my wedding reception. I’m still not sure how and why I would have known him. My mom invited a lot of people. My brother was ecstatic having been a Brakeman Bill Booster when a youngster.
My personal favorite…
Did I say this was my favorite show? I still get girlish gigglish when I think how I stood in line with all the other kiddos to meet my favorite clown. I even have a photo of me with my morning/afternoon icon (yes, I got doses in the morning and afternoon–two hours of fun everyday!) As you can see JP collected buttons. I remember my last visitation as a preteen and standing in line to shyly hand him a button for his coat collection. I felt a little embarrassed since I was a bit older than the other kids there. But a dedicated fan is a dedicated fan.
The show’s format featured Gertrude, a loud obnoxious “woman,” as in the Shakespearean sense, who was JP’s girlfriend (the Gertrude actor actually played a total of about 18 roles). Even though JP lived at the dump he had class. He had great rapport with the TV audience and owned an ICU television set. He would tune in and personally wish that viewer a happy birthday. I remember wishing my birthday would be called out. Never happened *sniff* He also had a villainous counterhero on the show named Boris S. Wart, whose sole goal was to takeover the show. I believe he did once. Boris tried appearing with JP once; however, some overzealous Patches Pals beat him up. Honestly, I was not part of that particular Patches Pack. Other memorable non-human characters: Tikey Turkey, Griswald, Grandpa Tik Tok, Esmerelda. Even if you did not grow up in the Puget Sound (I’ll try not to feel sorry for you) I’ll let you partake in Patches fun by clicking to the best ever website I spent most of my Saturday morning watching bits and clips of my childhood.
So–what great children’s programming did you grow up with?
Confession: I am a reformed annoying little sister. One of my annoying habits involved sneaking into my brother’s room and get into his stuff. When he wasn’t looking, I crept into his room and stole furtive sneak reads of his comic book collection. He fussed quite loudly whenever he caught me, but I couldn’t resist. What little girl could resist feasting on Disney comics, for those were my brother’s faves. He mainly bought Uncle Scrooge along with those mini-comic books (comics are actually magazines not books, if you think about it).
My comic passion ignited I am hooked and remember summer afternoons binging on comic book reads with friends in our backyard. Years pass and my brother graduates and I move on from Disney to Peanuts to Archie and the gang. Flash forward and I’m in college and I’m still reading cartoons, although they are now sophisticated commentary: Doonesbury.
From Doonesbury I easily switched to Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes and Zits. I introduced my own kiddos to the joy of comics, buying the big treasury collections which I read as well. They didn’t bat an eye about their mother reading a Better or for Worse collection with her own bowl of cereal in the morning.
Oh yeah, in high school my research paper was “What’s So Funny About the Comics?” I wrote about the history of the comics from their beginnings clear up to modern-day offerings. I prefer Snoopy over Garfield any day.
This weekend my youngest progeny visited for his monthly Mom Meal. I dragged him along on errands, one of which being the library. Besides picking up a couple of movies we picked up some books. Actually that’s an understatement. We staggered out of the library with mixture of graphic novels (Beowulf rocks), Herge Tin Tins, Marvel Encyclopedias, Batman, Zombie stuff, and DMZ. About twenty books. My son, who is all grown up, living on his own, and is a responsible adult, holed up on the couch the rest of the afternoon and feasted on his found treasures.
I’m okay with that. I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I was, wouldn’t I? Reading comic books didn’t warp my mind, didn’t ruin my kiddos to read “real” books and I’m quite glad to see them legitimized and sitting on their own shelf in the library.
Anyone else still reading the comics page? I only wish I could manage to do so without feeling so silly to see how Luann is doing these days when I’m in the staff room.
While I’m not particularly a fan of Virginia Woolf, I do appreciate her unspoken contributions to women and writing. She once penned an essay discussing the need to have a room to create in, the desire to close out the responsibilities of mother and wife in order to be alone with self and creating. Rather a revolutionary idea in her time.
Though not so confined to the stove of domesticity these days, as a woman and a wife, mother, teacher, library trustee, GiGi–assorted other hat wearer, I too crave a room of my own. Carving out a space for personal creative endeavors has had its own set of challenges involving space and guilt.
We’ve tended on the small side of houses and squeezing out an area for a desk meant getting creative to find a creative corner. A door placed on top of filing cabinets worked for a time, but definitely cramped the bedroom and so we moved it out to the living room. Still squishy. Ugly to boot.
When I switched to laptops, I got rid of the desk arrangement and I splurged, buying a loveseat the color of eggplant. I eked out a coveted thinking space in the bedroom, approximating nanoseconds of creative corner. The kids loved the idea that my office was purple.
Now, as an empty nester, I’ve commandeered one of the back bedrooms, I forget which progeny actually had it since they switched around so much. None of them can complain I’ve stolen their room. They know my standard reply anyway, “Your room? It was on loan for eighteen years.” My desk is an Ikea chair complimented by matching footstool to accommodate my two laptops (I still like my antiquated Dell, as I am trying to get used to my touch screen Lenovo). I have a rocking chair for when the MEPA wants to pop in and chat and a futon for the occasional overnight guest. This is where the guilt comes in: it feels a bit me-centric to devote one entire room towards my endeavors.
I know, I know–lots of people, lots of women have sewing rooms, craft corners, workshops, man caves and suffer not a twinge of remorse. I, on the other hand, do feel a bit bad about eradicating all traces of the progeny’s room. No beds, posters, old clothes, trophies remain; they truly are a guest when they visit.
Then again, I nudge away those nipping little guilts and conclude I should have no dilemmas about acquiring a room of my own. And this is where I have my moment of truth. Possessing a room of my own means I should make use of it, shouldn’t I? Then why am I writing this in the living room?
Writing about Reading Rainbow made me think how fortunate I am to have grown up with the real Disney. The one where Walt would step out from his desk and spin a little introduction relating to the feature presentation. Tom Hanks in Saving Mr. Banksgot it down pretty well.
Sundays nights I would look forward to whatever presentation Uncle Walt had for us to watch. There was always a variety ranging from live action movies with top actors of the day to mesmerizing and delightful animated shows (my favorite).
With the advent of packaged programming I was able to introduce my own kiddos to the Disney treasures through the thoughtful purchasing practices of our local library. Presented as Walt Disney Treasures, these are samples of Disney’s live action best. Even though the kiddos are grown up and gone, the MEPA and I don’t mind checking out one of the treasures for our nightly movie watch. Disney didn’t cut corners on production. The acting and scripts were always prime and still hold up well after all these years.
Do you remember Disney? Better yet, anyone come across the re-released treasures?
A couple of Treasure favorites so far:
I grew up with Reading Rainbow. Well, kinda sorta. The MEPA and I were fairly strict about television (that and we didn’t want to pay for cable) and pretty much the only TV the kiddos watched came via PBS programming. Reading Rainbow won out over Sesame Street and Mister Rogers. I didn’t want the television to be their babysitter so I would plunk myself down on the couch with them and we would relish our R&R time together.
The Grammy Award winning program aired from 1983 to 2009–that’s a lot of books! Levar Burton became as recognized and as trusted as Big Bird and Mr. Rogers in guiding children towards enrichment.
When Reading Rainbow went off the air, the world seemed a bit dimmer. Even though I hadn’t watched the show for years since the progeny grew up and moved to other entertainment *sniff* I still nurtured a soft spot for Levar’s brand of book boostering; if an episode aired and I happened to have the time I would watch it. With the passing of Reading Rainbow I thought “Well, there goes that wish.” You see, I harbored the secret wish of writing a book that might be selected as a Reading Rainbow feature read.
All is not lost, because Levar has fulfilled one of his secret wishes and has purchased the Reading Rainbow brand and is creating an app for this generation. He initially hoped to raise one million dollars on Kickstarter–that amount was achieved in only one day. He recently ended his campaign with a staggering amount of over five million dollars.
For more information go directly to the website. I’m looking forward to introducing Reading Rainbow to the grandkiddo. Heck, I might download the app for myself.
Are you nostalgic for a little Reading Rainbow. Check this out:
Or maybe this one:
It’s easy to see Reading Rainbow made an impact on one generation. I foresee its impact on this one.
But you don’t have to take my word for it.