(One of the posts I wrote on my Swell 24.7 blog in my previous life as a gift store owner in the busy tourist town of Provincetown on Cape Cod; posts that are grouped here under the category What Else Is Swell?, and are generally about life in Provincetown, life as a retailer, our fabulous dog Jack who sat outside the store for well over a decade, and other random things that grabbed me at the time.)
I was just 7 1/2 when my Dad left so there are only half a dozen or so concrete memories I have of him living with us. But one of them is of him reading me Put Me In The Zoo by Robert Lopshire. I LOVED that book. For those of you not familiar with its funny, rhyming, allegorical tale of finding your way in the world it features an unidentifiable creature, covered in large spots, who wants to live in the zoo with all the other animals but the zoo keeps kicking him out because they are not interested in him (what's wrong with them?). He entertains a small boy and girl with all the tricks he can do with his spots, such as change the colors, put them on other things like trees and balls, gather them together and juggle with them, make them different sizes, etc. And the kids realize that his exceptional talent in this rather unique area means he would be much happier in the circus than the zoo. Which he is. The End.
I'm not sure I got the whole Do What You Love And There Is A Good Place For You Somewhere You Just Need To Find It theme when I was 6 or 7 but I do remember being thrilled every time the kids suggest the circus, delighted that there is an appropriate outlet for everyone's talents/interests/unique skills, a place where they will be appreciated even if they are as strange as being able to take the spots off your body and do tricks with them. And anyone who can play with their colors like that is obviously someone I want to be friends with.
40 years pass and I give the book only an occasional thought. (When I was a nanny I borrowed it from the library to read to the kids I looked after but they didn't seem so enchanted by it. What's wrong with them?)
So imagine my squeals of delight when a copy turned up, now transformed into a journal made by Matt and Kellee Milner whose journals made from used books we carry in the store and on the web site. Let me tell you, that one never even saw the store shelves; it came straight home with me. It has 50 sheets of recycled paper and (the absolute BEST part) about a dozen pages from the original book interspersed with them. And the artists have clearly thought about which pages to include so you can actually get the whole story just from that selection. How great is that? I love the idea that as I write, or draw, or whatever in the journal I will come across some of those pages and be delighted and enthralled (maybe even inspired) by the book all over again. (Of course right now it's just an idea because I don't dare actually write, or draw, or whatever in it because it's too precious, and what if I mess it up, and what perfect project shall I use it for?)
And since Put Me In The Zoo was scurried away to my house we've had lots more great ones arrive, mostly ones that I have a fondness of because of my years as a nanny. Little Bear, Frog And Toad Together, plenty of Dr. Seuss, lots of the Frances books, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (always a personal favorite). All classics and all capable of bringing waves of nostalgia to everyone who has a fond memory of them. It's great to see people so delighted by them; but as not great as it is to be delighted by the one that meant so much to me.
AFTERTHOUGHT: In re-reading this I realize it sounds a little like my Dad sailed off into the sunset when I was 7 1/2, never to be seen again. Not so. Saw him every other weekend, and a couple of weeks each holiday. And he visits me in the US, and I visit him in Wales. Just wanted to clarify that in the unlikely event he ever gets a computer and the even more unlikely event he decides to read a blog. (He, by the way, doesn't even remember Put Me In The Zoo. What's wrong with him?)