May 29, 2004
Forty years ago there were no bookstores like there are today, not that serve coffee anyway, no videos or DVDs, no computer games and no special effects. There was the neighbors pool if we were so lucky to wail loud enough atop the piercing hot metal slide to be invited over to swim. We made our own magic - summers were quiet and filled with pick up games, cards, riding bikes, going to the lake and books.
Luckily for us, the Bookmobile visited the local church parking lot about 5 blocks from our house once a week
Mondays at 2:00pm. I remember because it was the highlight of the week. The Bookmobile was a large blue bus refurbished into a library on wheels. Rows of shelves lined the sides of the bus and a desk and clerk who doubled as the driver filled the back of the bus. There was an In door and an Out door. The steps to get on the bus were high, but at 10 years old or so, even though I had the height in my own family, I was the shortest in my class.
But the steps to me were just a jump into a world far away from reality. There were library cards and manila envelopes with typed titles and authors. We rode our bikes to the Bookmobile and were allowed to check out as many books as we could carry home. We did not have backpacks then, but there was a metal basket on the front of my blue Schwinn one speed bike and I filled it every time. The Bookmobile brought magic, a place to go besides the neighbors pool. A place beyond the Bookmobile itself, all the hardback adventures bound within. My favorite sections were biography, always a sucker for based on a true story stuff and the fiction section. In particular, the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series by Betty MacDonald , that would be from the fiction section, not the based on a true story section, although if you leave out the magic dust
.it just could be.
The Mrs. Piggle Wiggle that I recall from the summer of fourth grade was just plain fun
she had a way of making every mundane task a treat. She had a crazy upside down house and ate weird things. She used magic dusts and powders to cure children of typical child afflictions, not medically based though. My grandmother had a powder box that I remember using as Mrs. Piggle Wiggles magic dust. Always a moral lesson at the end of the typical cure, the reading was still enjoyable and took away the heat of the summer boredom. I must have read every one of the Piggle Wiggle books. I dont think I was ever without one, and I could recite all of her cures
The cure of the Slow Poke. The Wont-Pick-Up-Toys Cure, The Cry Baby Cure, The Bad Table Manners Cure. (Having listed these, perhaps I should do some re-reading
.Is there a Piggle Wiggle for the 21st century?) They were all good and of course I challenged myself to be a graduate of the MPW pr
Almost forty years later, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle appeared in her magical way at the Childrens Theater in Minneapolis. A performance not to be missed by this Piggle Wiggle fan, not even for quilting. The tickets came as a surprise and I was thrilled to take my three children to see the magical nutty old lady who kept me busy those summers long ago. I did not think about the fact that my kids are now 18, 14 and 12. Only the 18 year old was mature enough to go willingly, but the younger children were not exactly thrilled with the idea of going to the childrens theater. But, the tickets were a gift and we were going. They readied, slow as molasses and quarrelling all the way. I needed MPW for the cure for the Slowpoke, and for the Fighter/Quarrelers. But instead of sharing that yet, I told them the story of how my mom and dad took my sisters and brother and me to see The Sound of Music, one of the first large screen movies I had seen. I whined and whined that I did not want to go, I
So, like me, they begrudgingly got in the 2002 PT Cruiser quarreling all the way. Emilynn rolled her eyes and said she would rather stay home and clean the quilting studio (her job) than go to a baby childrens theater where there was sure to be not one 14 year old. I told her that if she kept rolling her eyes like that she would not have the luxury of seeing well enough to clean out the refrigerator because her eyes would be in the back of her head, and though it would not help with the refrigerator, such a state of vision was indeed an asset that could at times be found useful, especially when dealing with brothers sneaking up behind her. She, of course, did not find this humorous, nor did it stop her.
Opening. Dark. Suddenly LIGHTNING THUNDER LITTLE KIDS WAILING! Wow, this was cool. The whole thing was just like the summer storm going on outside my window as I write this. Every child in the audience under 4 started screaming. About 10 parents got up with the little one in arms and raced toward the back of the theater. The real storm is so violent right now, that I wish I had a parent to pick me up and rescue me. Take me away, Mom!? The rain, or perhaps hail, cracks against the window. The lightning ropes its fiery way straight down from the sky. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle emerged from her right side up upside down cartoon like house to comfort a runaway girl in the storm. Where is my Mrs. Piggle Wiggle? The light and sound systems were parodying the reality of my natural storm. The girl was not happy that her mother gave her chores to do, like washing dishes. She was running away. Now, interestingly enough, was it not Emilynn that just yesterday gave me the same song and dance abou
Hubert did not like to clean his room. My son leaned over to me at that part and said, Does this sound familiar? Why does he think I so wanted him to go to this play? My favorite line from the play came screeching out of the mouth of Huberts mother, during a phenomenal dance number, Motherhood
.What was I thinking!!!!!!! She bellowed across the audience full of mothers thinking the same thing. Is there a CD for this play? I want the words to this song
.wait! On second thought
.dont need em. I am quite practiced.
Hubert (Ted OR Marty) please pick up your room.
.I asked you to pick up your room
perhaps you didnt hear me.
Now I am getting a little upset
.pick your room up now. And even later
PICK UP YOUR ROOM BEFORE I GO NUTS! No, I already am going nuts!
Huberts mother had stolen my words. My children were bent over with laughter. I was too.
I was astounded at the quality of the set, the costumes and the actors. This was not what you would think you would see at a Childrens Theater performance.
Humor for young and old, complete with pants that fall down exposing boxers, dresses that fly up exposing ruffled girdles, and farts and belches a winning combination for my 12 year old, cure-all recipes for whiskey root beer floats, roasted marshmallows and rice krispie treats to soothe the soul and make everything better, disappearing parrots and reappearing Mrs. Piggle Wiggle from every imaginable spot, never suspected by the audience, this play was a delight, but most importantly not just to me.
After the play, for which we gave a standing ovation, we looked at the display of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books. There were four. I walked around the shelf to see where the rest were. Ted, my 18 year old, said there were only four. But no
I protested, I read all the volumes. There must have been dozens, like Nancy Drew! Four, he stated. Four? I questioned. Cant be four. A little disheartened, I glanced at the four there. They were so familiar
Mrs. Piggle Wiggles Magic, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Goes to the the Farm, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
. I must have read them over and over again.
My daughter, Emilynn, said to me, Well, it was better than I would have thought. She was smiling. I remember saying to my mother after the Sound of Music, Well, it was better than I would have thought. Forty years later, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was still working her magic.
Later I went to the library shelves in our house, our own little bookmobile, and sought out my garage sale copies of long ago purchased Piggle Wiggle classics. I tucked them under my arm, grabbed a quilt, curled up on the empty window seat and through the settling of the summer storm began to go back to a time long ago, safe and secure. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was working her magic again, no special dust required.
More On Articles
On Asking for Trouble
On It Was A Blast
On The Moon
On Beautiful Feet
On Two Pieces
On Midnight Oil
On Vintage Treasures
On A Typical Day
On Going Home
On Letting Go
On Mother's Day