We sat on the carpeted steps in a little room inside our public library. My two preschool daughters happily squirmed and wiggled beside me as we, and their busy-bodied peers, watched the lady in the chair. The children’s librarian, who had already led us in “one, two, buckle my shoe,” finished reading us a book about a kitten wearing tennis shoes. It had been a fun story-time, but Mrs. Librarian was getting ready to close the book and wrap things up for the day. But there was one last thing to read to us. A nursery rhyme. She picked up her paper and in her sing-song voice she said, “There was an old lady who lived in a …” She peered through her glasses waiting for a little voice to complete her sentence. And a little voice did. My youngest daughter, raised her chubby two-year-old fist in the air and yelled, “ROCKET!”
And though my little girl’s response drew a few smiles, she was incorrect.
No sweetheart, the old lady did not live in a rocket. She lived in a shoe. A smelly, cramped shoe. And what’s worse, is that she had “so many children she didn’t know what to do.” She doesn’t even give them a good supper. After “broth without any bread” she sends them off to bed. Bummer.
But I think Kenzie was on to something. I’d much rather see Granny go into orbit than live with a bunch of bratty, hungry kids in a stinky shoe.
I got to thinking. Are there any nursery rhymes that are not depressing?
Let’s see. Jack and Jill fall down and get concussions. Little Miss Muffet doesn’t get to finish her breakfast. The three mice are blind. Mary gets in trouble at school because her little lamb follows her there. Little Bo Peep can’t train her sheep to follow her and therefore loses them. The old lady that swallowed a fly? I guess she’ll die. And, I don’t mean to be judgmental here, but the dish running away with the spoon sounds a little shady.
Humpty Dumpty? Enough said.
Yes, I know that many nursery rhymes are written about historical events or culture and were sometimes used to teach a generation. Ring Around The Rosie, for example, was actually sung by little children in England in the 1600’s. They weren’t playing a recces game, but recounting the “falling down” death of their classmates who were dying from the Great Bubonic Plague of London. Cheery, huh?
Maybe I’ll stick with the books about kittens in tennis shoes.
As for the old lady… is NASA hiring?