This month marks the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr.Seuss, author of children's books and creator of the Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two, Horton the Elephant, the Grinch and a host of other memorable characters.
I first heard of Dr. Seuss more than sixty years ago when I was in first grade. Our teacher, Miss Jensen, read us a fantastic story about wonderful things that might have happened on a place called Mulberry Street. She said it was written by Dr. Seuss.
In the story, a young boy walked home from school, knowing his dad would ask what he saw on the way. What he saw was a horse and cart plodding up Mulberry Street. Nothing else. Just a plain horse and cart on Mulberry Street.
But what if?
What if the horse and cart were part of a parade? And suddenly there was a parade, a fabulous parade, with bands and floats and acrobats and jugglers and a full motorcycle police escort "with Sergeant Mulvaney himself in the lead!" all described in great and and loving detail, each detail vividly illustrated, and each description ending with the statement "And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street!"
Later, I would visit McElligot's Pool beneath which "way down beneath in the muck and the murk there might be some fish who are all going "Glurk!"
I would visit the fabulous zoo of young Mister McGrue. There I would see a lion with ten legs, "a nerkel, a nerd, and a seersucker too!"
I would sit through the multiple acts at Circus McGurkus many times.
Long before there was a Cat in the Hat, a Thing One or Thing Two, I grew up with Dr. Seuss.
Dr. Seuss, or rather Thidwick, the Big Hearted Moose, taught me about sharing even when it's not convenient.
Bartholomew Cubbins, in Bartholomew and the Oobleck, taught me about unintended consequences.
I didn't realize it at the time, but Horton the Elephant taught me the importance of faithfulness and follow-through. I still hear his words "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent."
Dr. Seuss taught me to be open to new things. By the time I first experienced them in in Army, I already knew I'd like green eggs and ham. And, in the words of the book "I would eat them on a boat and I would eat them with a goat. I would eat them here and there. I would eat them anywhere."
Most importantly, Dr. Seuss taught me that other people were important, all other people. As Horton the Elephant observes in Horton Hears a Who, "A person's a person no matter how small."
And even a Grinch can be redeemed to the point he gets to carve the roast beast.
Important life lessons all.
How about you?
What lessons did you take from your childhood literature?
Which ones remain today?