My favorite book was given to me by a man, a bachelor, who was interning with my father. I called him Uncle Bert. He just heard I was sick and brought me this book, A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and illustrated by Fern Bisel Peat. I still treasure this battered book .
|This is the back of the book. The front is long gone.|
I read it and read it and memorized the poems and tried to visualize what the poems were about. One was about being sick and I imagined his (Robert Louis Stevenson's) toy soldiers marching up and down my counterpane. (A word I learned from the book.)
I could imagine myself as Mary Jane leading this parade. She looked about my age and had my blonde hair and blue eyes - and brothers.
Bring the comb and play upon it!
Marching here we come!
Willie cocks his highland bonnet,
Johnnie beats the drum.
Mary Jane commands the party,
Peter leads the rear;
Feet in time, alert and hearty,
Each a Grenadier!
That's another new word: Grenadier.
Time went by and I named all the children in the photos and made a long list of names in the back of the book. I fully intended to name my children from that list. Kathleen and Cynthia are on that list, but my middle child, Lisa, is not. I think I hadn't heard that name until I was much older.
I also colored in the black and white pictures with my colors. This one looks like colored pencil. It was done with love. I wasn't defacing the book, I was loving it with my own additions. I loved the illustrations of Fern Bisel Peat as much as I loved the poetry.
Time passed and I grew up and when I became a mother I shared my treasured book with them. They weren't allowed to write in it, but somehow a page was torn and the cover lost. I don't blame them. They were children and they loved this book too.
By the time the grandchildren came along, the book was too battered and fragile to share. Nevertheless, I still love the book and even now I read through it now and then.
I still am amazed that a sickly little boy who grew up to be a sickly man could bring me and so many other children such a beautiful view of childhood. How did he know those things?