Bustin’ Loose With My Dr. Seuss

There is little in life that can’t be addressed with a solid quote

from Dr. Seuss.

by Cherri Ellis

life lessons from unlikely sources are kind of one of the best things available

Last night I met a baby named Eli. He was just a couple of weeks old, and when his mother put him in my arms the rest of the room melted away. Babies are the crack cocaine of the middle-aged white woman set.  To hold a baby in your arms is to exist in two realms at once. The memory of your own baby being a newborn seems like a million years ago and five seconds ago simultaneously. Although you know intellectually that time is a steady unit of measure, life actually happens in fits and starts. That explains how one day you can look in the mirror and have dark roots when you know for a fact that you had flawless hair only the day before. It also explains how a child who I have known since she was five years old could be handing me her child. I turned my back for a second, and a generation had passed. Eli was dressed like the world’s smallest lumberjack, in a red-plaid onesy and itty- bitty suede desert boots.  I briefly considered eating him whole.

Looking into his eyes, the thought flashed through my brain that I needed to make sure he had enough Dr. Seuss books. There are a lot of valuable lessons in the nonsensical pages of The Cat in the Hat and The Star Bellied Sneeches and The Lorax, but they are not preachy and laborious. Reading The Cat in the Hat to a kid is wild fun. The cover is shiny cobalt-blue and white and red, and the rhythm is perfect. There is never any need for a catch syllable or an awkward rhyme. I read it to my daughter so many times that now – 19 years later — I can still recite the first half by heart.  Although she was so young she most likely doesn’t remember it, the minutes I spent with her curled up in my lap turning the pages herself are now seared in my memory for all time. It is a reverent book to me. (I know this sounds harsh, but whoever it was in Hollywood that decided to make a movie out of it with Mike Myers in a costume should spontaneously combust. Today.)

The story behind The Cat in the Hat is that Ted Geisel (Theodore Seuss Geigel, or Dr. Seuss) wrote the book on a bet with a colleague who worked in the education division of Houghton Mifflin. A symposium of some sort had identified 348 words that they felt were essential for a first-grader to know in order to learn how to read.  His friend challenged him to cut the list down to 250, and write a book using only those words. Ted came back nine months later with The Cat in the Hat. He had used 236 of the words, and worked in a message about telling the truth in the very last line. Genius.

And the lessons keep coming. In The Lorax, he teaches about how important it is to take care of the environment. In Horton Hears a Who he teaches about equality when a big, floppy-eared elephant discovers a planet the size of a speck of dust who needs his protection. The famous line from the story is “even though you can’t see or hear them at all, a person’s a person no matter how small.”

The Right to Life Movement tried to use the quote as a slogan, until Dr. Seuss spoke up and declared that he was NOT making a pro-life statement. Oddly enough, he was actually making a different political statement — one of apology to Japanese Americans for his earlier propaganda against them during World War II. It took him nearly a decade, but Dr. Seuss even taught himself a lesson with that one.

Racial tolerance and popularity is addressed in The Sneeches, but your kid won’t know it, because they’ll just be enjoying the story of the funny, furry sneetches who were all identical except half of them had stars on their bellies and half didn’t.

There is little in life that can’t be addressed with a solid quote from Dr. Seuss.

Need to remind a kid that they’re special?

“Today you are you.

That is truer than true.

There is no one alive

Who is Youer than you!”

Somebody get dumped?

“Don’t cry because it’s over.

Smile because it happened.”

Or say…your county ran up billions in debt and now they want you to pay for it?

I wonder what Dr. Seuss would say about that? If you will  forgive the mucho grande cojones it takes to imitate the master — I believe it would go something like this:

“In Jefferson County the lawyers

have spoken

Repairs must be made to your sewer.

It’s broken.”

“Lets have a meeting!”

the water board hollers

“Meetings make us each

two hundred eighty five dollars!”

A pile of experts was paid for, and then

When that wasn’t enough,

we paid some of their friends.

The plan was to build a new

sewer so grand

It would be the best sewer in all

of the land.

But how will we pay for a

sewer this great?

It’s easy, the Board said,

we’ll increase our rates!

Then a man who can count

Said out loud in despair

“You have spent 3.3 billion

on this repair!”

So where are they headed?

I guess that’s no mystery —

The largest municipal bankruptcy

in history.

What’s the end of the story?

I don’t want to spoil it

But Jefferson County cannot

flush its toilet.”

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