Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brer Rabbit

One of the BEST parts of parenting is teaching you children to love reading. My punks love to read, well, be read to anyways. We have discovered funny books, sad stories, grand adventures, heroic battles and everything in between.

My newest project involves having my older punk reading to my youngest. It’s a great way for them to spend some time doing an activity together that doesn’t involve running around the house screeching at the top of their lungs. Or sword fighting with fake flowers. Or jumping on the dog.

Sometimes I will sit there and listen, or take over as I have control issues and someone isn’t reading the way I would. It’s a process; I am learning to let go. Baby steps.

Yesterday we came across a story that my oldest couldn’t read with a straight face. I couldn’t figure out why he was reading all crazy. The story came from the “American Tales” section of A Treasury of Children’s Literature. Not something I thought I would have to jump in on to keep things calm.

But there they were just a giggling and laughing and I think I saw a tear fall from the elder’s eye.  What could have caused such a reaction? I will tell you. Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby caused it.  They disrupted our nice quiet reading time.

“They talk weird” was all my oldest could say while trying to catch his breath.  Have you ever read this story? No? Well let me give you the story line.

Brer Fox makes a Tar-Baby and puts it in the middle of the road. Brer Rabbit sees Tar-Baby and tries to have a conversation. Tar-Baby, being made of tar and turpentine does not respond to Brer Rabbit. Brer Rabbit gets angry and hits Tar-Baby; thusly getting stuck in the tar.
Brer Fox decides to teach Brer Rabbit a lesson for stickin his nose where it doesn’t belong. Brer Rabbit tricks Brer Fox into throwing him into the brier patch which he then uses to scrape himself free of tar. Brer Fox gets no dinner and Brer Rabbit is free to pester the Fox another day.

Now, you’re prolly thinking what is it about this story that could make a 9 year old punk laugh so hard? Well, here’s an example:

Scene: Brer Rabbit speaking to the Tar-Baby

“ Is you deaf?” says Brer Rabbit. “Cuz if you is, I can holler louder,” says he, and den he starts hollerin’ fit to raise the dead. “GOOD MAWNIN’! FINE, FINE WEDDER WE HAVIN’ THIS MAWNIN’ AINT’T IT?” says he. De Tar-Baby she don’t say nothin’. And Brer Fox, he lay low.

Then the punk hit below the belt. He said, “ Momma! You sound like that when you get angry sometimes!” Now I have tried to be honest with ya’ll. I have tried to explain that I am a Southern girl to the core. And I have a bit of a drawl, but not that bad. Unless I am around Beccum and T for too long. Apparently. I think he was specifically referring to this selection:

“You is stuck-up, dat’s what you is” says Brer Rabbit. “If you don’t take off dat hat and tell me good mawnin’, I’m goin’ to bust you wide open,” says he.

The Tar-Baby don’t say nothin’, and Brer Fox, he lay low.

Brer Rabbit, he keep on askin’ de Tar-Baby to say howdy, and de Tar-Baby, she jest keep on sayin’ nothin’. Then presently, Brer Rabbit draws back wid his fist, and blip! He knock her in de side of de head. Right there’s where he broke the molasses jug, cuz his fist, it gets stuck, and he can’t pull lose. De tar held him there. But de Tar-Baby, she jest stay still, and Brer Fox, he lay low.

I do believe he was saying I am the Tar-Baby; able to keep my cool under any situation. He couldn’t possibly mean I resembled the impatient Rabbit. That would be rude.

Personally, I think I resemble Brer Fox the most. In fact, I believe I have had a similar conversation with my kid when he went stickin his nose where it didn’t belong. Just listen (well, read) this victory speech:

“I reckon I got you dis time,” says Brer Fox. “Maybe I ain’t, but I reckon I do,: says he. “You been runnin’ ‘round here sassin’ me for a mightly long time, but I reckon you done come to de end of de road. You been cuttin’ up your capers and bouncin’ ‘round dis neighborhood ‘til you come to believe yourself de boss of de whole gang. And you is always somewhere where you ain’t got no bizness,” says Brer Fox, says he. “Who ax you for to come and strike up an acquaintance wid dis here Tar-Baby? And who stuck you up there where you is? Nobody in de roun’ world. You jest up and jammed yourself in on dat Tar-Baby widout waitin’ for any invite,” says Brer Fox. “And there you is and there you’ll stay.”

As a parent I think I have some work to do in order to be more like Tar-Baby; like I said – It’s a process.

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