Saturday, August 13, 2011

Yertle… and Kellan

When I was in the Navy two of my dearest friends were a couple named Mark and Barabara whose first child was a beautiful and rambunctious girl named Erin Nicole. From the first day I met Erin, I enjoyed being an honorary uncle and often got her children’s books. Then I’d stick around to hear Erin’s mom read them (Barbara has an amazingly sweet, soothing reading voice). Several years later, I saw my old friends again in San Diego. I’d been at sea for almost the entire last ten months, and seeing Mark, Barbara, and their now trio of kidsters, Erin Nicole (by then a precocious six-year-old), Seana Christine (almost three at the time), and Bryant Edward (4 months). I had the immense pleasure of hearing those kids’ dad read Yertle the Turtle by Dr Seuss as a bedtime story. I ask you, how many people have had the pleasure of hearing a US Marine read aloud a Dr. Seuss story?

“On the faraway island of Sala-ma-Sond,
Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond.”

For those of you who don’t remember, Yertle’s downfall is that he wants all the other turtles to form a turtle pyramid so he can see more and rule more.

I must say, dear old Dad gave an amazing performance reading the parts of old Yertle and the underling Mack. I thought to myself, the young Marine recruits in his charge would believe neither their eyes or their ears.

That was an extremely tough act to follow, but I had the immense pleasure of being guest reader of the story of Gertrude McFuzz.

“There once was a girl bird named Gertrude McFuzz
Who had the plainest bird-tail there was…”

Even twenty-some years later, I remember Erin Nicole giggling as I read. I thought if giggling was an Olympic event, she would certainly win multiple gold medals. I’m amazed how that experience stays with me more than two decades later. Erin and Seana are both college graduates now, and Seana has completed her first year of veterinary school at UC Davis. Bryant Edward, the tiny little fellow I remember Mom picking up and putting in his stroller, is about to graduate from college. He towers over not only me, but his dear old dad as well. If I want to be in a good place in my head, I put this memory on repeat.

Last month, my wonderful typist Marie Flynn got some very scary news: her four year old granddaughter Kallen had to go in for extensive open-heart surgery. Happily enough, it appears the doctors knew exactly what they were doing, though Kallen will have to go through a lengthy period of rest and recuperation. Having your entire sternum cut down the middle has got to be awfully rough on anyone of any age, much less a girl who is not quite ready for preschool. When I got the news, I thought about it for a bit and then gave Marie a copy of Yertle the Turtle and three other Dr Seuss books. I hope that will do something to lift her granddaughter’s spirits.

I will now pronounce two great lessons of life: 1) never miss a chance to read Dr Seuss to a little kid and 2) never miss a chance to get a copy of one of Dr Seuss’s books for a sick child.

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