The two little girls down the block (those POOR CHILDREN! According to my Mother, who knew all the ins and outs of the parents’ battles and the father’s usual drunken state) had quite a few of those. They were a few years younger than I, but I’d go down to their house and read to them often, and the books were the bait. Like all things sampled, liked and taken away, the books kindled a craving from the first time I was allowed to borrow some from another neighbor’s child.
I had to give those back, and longed for MORE, or at least to delve into those bright pages again.
And my going to “visit” the children was an okay thing, though I dared not tell my Mother we were reading. She held that reading in the daytime was wasting daylight and if you don’t have anything better to do, I’ll GIVE you something to do, by jingoes.
So I just left it that I was going down to play. And I’d read every book they had, as long as they would listen, and would wander myself back into the pages when they went off to the bathroom or to get something to drink or another toy to play with.
The stories were about a kindly old bunny, a retired gentleman with rheumatism and a cane. He had all sorts of adventures, mostly through others in his ken who needed help or advice, both of which he gave readily as he could---in about a ten percent ratio of the former to ninety percent of the latter.
He had nice neighbors---You know for years, now, I've thought one was Mrs. Tiggywinkle---Oh, my Goodness!! A childhood memory disproved! I could have sworn that she and Uncle Wiggily were neighbors, but they were of two different stories, and by different authors. I suppose the reading of both to the little girls was all muddled in my mind---well, they woulda MADE nice neighbors for each other.
The neighborhood bully was the Pipsisewah---a word which came into my vocabulary forever, and I do believe into most of my hometown. I can remember hearing it even at Sunday School, and it was used to denote anyone not behaving right---even a mean old lady was referred to as a REAL PIPSISEWAH, as was a storm, a rowdy party, a boisterous child, a frivolous hat, a too-spirited horse, or even a nagging wife. Of course, the dialects and drawls and not having actually READ the stories led most of the users to vary from Pip-SISSA-WAR to Pip-SISSY-WAW. There were also a Skillery-Skallery Gator and other denizens of the area who needed a good comeuppance.
The books I read were sorta leathery cardboard, as I recall, and in several plain colors with no cover pictures. These were probably a later edition, and I'm sure they brightened many a child's life, as well as bookshelves.
I’ve thought often that I’d like to get a set of those books for the GrandChildren; stories like those are timeless, somehow, the stories of little animals and their small, innocent adventures where everything turns out all right, lesson learned, problem solved, every time.
And then, there was the game---I know I'd have enjoyed it, but it wasn't as coveted an object as the books. And seeing this gameboard reminds me that there's a vintage game in the storage room, one of those lost Christmas Presents from a couple of years ago, bought when I came across it, and forgotten in the November/December flurry. I really meant to get it out just for us to play when the little ones were all here. Their next visit, for sure.
For quite a while now, sometimes when Our Littlest Girl is here for the day, I’d catch myself calling her “Skeezicks” occasionally, and could not think where I’d heard the word. I tried to remember if it were from Dr. Seuss, with his magnificent imagination for kerplunckety words; I tried to think if it might be a member of Spike Jones’ band, or one of the Stooges or a member of Our Gang. I could just see him as a zany Earnest T. from Mayberry, with a flattened hat, a slingshot and a kazoo. (A raccoon coat also entered my mind, but was quickly quashed).
And today, when I Googled “Uncle Wiggily”---there he was, Skeezicks himself, in all his gawky, lanky, obnoxious glory.