Monday, November 29, 2010

Something about the holidays sends me to my shelf of worn books, that somehow found their way to me. This particular edition of Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies is missing the copyright date page, but my best guess is that it was printed in the late 1930's or early 40's. Researching, I discovered this a rare edition, but the brittle pages didn't discourage me from reading it. I love the comfortable way old books fall open. It makes me wonder who the first reader was, and why certain spots within the book seem more relaxed than others.
Fairy tales frustrated me as a child. I had a tough time distinguishing between fantasy and reality, and spent more time worrying about the troll under the 8th street bridge, and the mice sewing dresses in the attic than enjoying the magical stories. Maybe next week I'll confess why I was never able to watch "The Mickey Mouse Club" on Fridays.
Anyway, loving all things British, this book has long been on my backlist. But, I have to tell you, this was the oddest story I have ever read. This Victorian morality fairy tale begins with, Tom, a young chimney sweep, who winds up in the bedroom of a pale, sickly rich girl. She awakens to see the dusty little guy in her room; she screams; he flees. Now, that' s all fine, and even a bit fun, but then Tom ends up falling into a lake and dying. When he somehow comes back to life, he is a water baby with fins; he is greeted by other water babies, and, I think he has to prove his moral goodness somehow to the serpents and other creepy people of the kingdom before he can become real again.
This might have been good stuff when it was first published in the 1800's, but, I have a hard time believing that. Can't you just hear parents telling their kids that if they weren't good, they' toss them in a nearby creek and they'd become water babies? My parents told me they'd give me to the street sweeper, but at least I would have gotten to ride around in a fancy truck and get to see the town.
Needless to say, I didn't finish. Instead, I moved on to the second in the Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross, Miss Julia Takes Over. Fun stuff. These books remind me of my favorite screw-ball comedies with a modern twist. They're silly little pieces that make me giggle. This time around, Miss Julie has lost Hazel Marie Puckett, the mother of Little Lloyd, fathered by Julia's late husband. Julia has taken in both Hazel and LL, much to the delight of the town's wagging tongues; but Hazel has gone missing, and an unethical preacher is trying to get Little L away from Julie to get the inheiritance that Big Lloyd left to him. Amid that chaos, Julia is advising a neighbor whose husband is plagued with ED, an acronym Julia only pretends to understand. There are about seven Miss Julia books...perhaps those will be my holiday go-to's from now on. At least I will have one handy as Plan B in the event I grab another Water Babies at Christmas.
You all had fine Thanksgivings, right? Me too. My neighbors call Thanksgiving at my house "the Orphan Train" . I gather people who might not be able to get home for the holidays, or who This year five people came over. We ate at six, and when everyone left at one A.M., I was not on my toes. After dinner I had packed goody containers for someone, but when the clock struck one, and I prepare his to-go bag, I grabbed the wrong containers, sending him home with all the leftover gravy and couple celery sticks. I hope he enjoyed his leftovers.
Thanks for stopping by.

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