Rudyard Kipling in Philadelphia

September 25, 2014

The Wednesday weather was perfect for us to go to Philadelphia to pick up our 6 year old grandson from school:  the crisp bit of the morning had eased into a sunny afternoon warmth that spread over us as we sat waiting on the bench on the blacktop where we would rendezvous with Adrian after his teacher, “Miss C,” passed him off to us.  After a fist bump with his teacher, and with his hand in mine, David, (aka, Grampy, at that point) joined us from the bench and we headed toward the gate.

Adrian was instantly all chatter:  “Do you celebrate Rosh Hoshana?”

“No,” I told him, “We’re not Jewish.”

“Well, you believe in God,”  he said, (which has been established by his daddy during a discussion one day).

“Yes, we celebrate different holidays.  Not all people who believe in God celebrate in the same ways,” I told him.  Then, eager to engage him in a new story for the walk back home, and sort of to establish the tone of the trip along the sidewalks, (before we got to the playground at the halfway point), and without missing a beat, I asked, “Do you want to know how the camel got his hump?  Well, it’s not actually the way; it’s pretend, but it’s a fun story.”  Seeing an open expression on his face, I charged right in by reading directly from his mom’s copy of the book which I’d picked off one of our shelves in the basement.  I knew that language would grab him so fast he’d never know what hit him, and that’s exactly what happened.  (And see for yourself:  read the excerpt aloud to get the full effect.)

In the sea, once upon a time, O my Best Beloved, there was a Whale, and he ate fishes.  He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel.  All the fishes he could find in all the sea he ate with his mouth–so!  Till at last there was only one small fish left in all the sea, and he was a small ‘Stute Fish, and he swam a little behind the Whale’s right ear, so as to be out of harm’s way.  Then the Whale stood up on his tail and said, ‘I’m hungry.’  And the small ‘Stute Fish said in a small ‘stute voice, ‘Noble and generous Cetacean, have you ever tasted Man?’

‘No,’ said the Whale.  ‘What is it like?’

‘Nice,’ said the small ‘Stute Fish.  “Nice but nubbly.’

‘Then fetch me some,’ said the Whale, and he made the sea froth up with his tail.           — (“How The Whale Got His Throat,” Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling)

Fearing I might fall over my feet, since we were continually walking along Lombard Avenue, (although he was safely holding onto David’s hand at that point), I only read the above section to him, and he said, “I know that story!  I have it in a book called “How The Camel Got His Hump and Other Just So Stories.”  Dr. Leslie gave it to me – for free – I got to keep it and now it’s mine – but the words are different.  I like mine better…..How could different people write the same story?  And after a short discussion about different versions of stories, the subject was changed.

It wasn’t till much later in our visit – while he was having his snack – that we returned to the story.  Not wanting to miss my chance to get back to the beauty and fun of the original language, I re-read that same passage.  This time, I really had him.  He wanted more.  And I knew at that point we could’ve read for an hour together, at least.  But there wasn’t time.  It was just about time for us to go back home.  But I promised I’d bring it back the next week.  In a conspiratorial tone, he said, “Maybe instead of playing on the playground, we can read.”  I told him we’d do both and that I wouldn’t forget.

The whole visit was like that yesterday.  He was a delight the whole way home and at the playground.  He gave us a ton of details about his day and we were captivated.  This is how we roll sometimes when we visit Philadelphia on Wednesdays.  🙂

Location, Location, Location.

You might notice the WAC Administration Building cupola out of the corner of your eye as you walk onto Simply Bed & Bread's brick path, since our house is just a stone's throw away from the college. Or it might be the ...
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