When I was little, one of my older sisters had massive cupboards built into the wall over her bed. She kept all manner of things in those cupboards. At one point we even stashed a stray kitten in those cupboards, knowing Mum would never let us keep him. We fed him soggy Weetbix and water, and by the time Mum found out about Sledgehammer (that’s what happens when kids name animals) she couldn’t make us kick out the cat we’d been secretly rearing in the cupboard.
My other memory of those cupboards is curling up inside with one of the doors flung wide open so enough light could get in for me to read And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. It was my sister’s book so I was only permitted to read it in her room, and boy I adored that book. So much. I loved how the little boy’s imagination would get out of control as he wandered home from school – because I absolutely related to that. On my long walk home from school I’d often pretend I was acting in a movie and so I’d ensure I was walking like actors do. You know, just so. Or I’d pretend I had suddenly landed in this neighbourhood from another time and place, and that I was seeing all these roads, houses and gardens for the first time.
Sometimes I’d sprint as fast as I could in the hope an olympic athletics coach might happen to drive by and notice my exceptional running skills. I was the first runner in the girls’ relay team who placed second at the Eastern Bays inter-school comps after all. While I ran I would play out the conversation I’d have with the scout in my head. “Who? Me? But I just run for fun, I’m not even the last runner in our relay team! But of course, I’d love to join your olympic team Sir.”
Sadly I was never spotted by an olympic scout, which probably saved me some embarrassment as all my friends’ legs pretty swiftly grew about a foot longer than mine would ever be.
Like all kids I had a wild imagination, and over the years boring old adulthood has stripped it away from me a little at a time (though, almost every night, I still have vivid dreams that I can recall in the morning). So I look back incredibly fondly on my childhood, when I’d get so often lost in my own head. And if not in my own head, then in a book. So a book that’s about a kid who gets lost in his own head was pretty much perfection as far as 8-year-old me was concerned.
This morning, a hardback copy of And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street arrived on our doorstep. I ordered it online for Victor, for Christmas. He’s a mite too young to understand what it’s all about just yet, but I know I’ll enjoy reading it to him and I hope one day he grows to love it as much as I did – and do.
(And to think that at least twenty publishers rejected this – Dr. Seuss’ first children’s book – before a friend of his agreed to publish it)