Friday, March 20, 2009

Ogden's Return

Ah Spring. When the swallows return to Capistrano. When a young man’s fancy turns to something mushy and pollen becomes thick enough to shovel. I’m pretty sure if I could design a fashionable holster for carrying tissues on your side, allergy sufferers everywhere would make me a millionaire. And I’d be the first customer.

In the Spring of my 12th year I was introduced to Ogden. Life would never be the same. And every spring I murmur his name softly. First with a smile, then with a giggle.

Ogden will be with me until the day I die and yet, he will still live on.

On the first day of Spring the year I was 12, my beloved English teacher Mrs. Teer took a magic marker and went over to her cheerfully decorated bulletin board. We found this odd, as our willowy teacher always wrote our lessons on the chalk board. (Please tell me some of you are old enough to remember chalk boards?!) With a Mona Lisa smile on her lips she began to write. I can still see her, looking slightly uncomfortable at bending her height in half to scribble on the low board. As she wrote the word “riz”, we began to look at each other in confusion. Incorrect spelling was the highest offense in her class. Well, just after “not giving it your all”. As we all contemplated reaching for a dictionary to discover if this was a new word, meaning a new test, she did it again.

This time, she wrote “iz”. Just short of panicked, we glanced around the room, looking at each other for reassurance and finding none. When she was done, Mrs. Teer turned around with a self satisfied smile, only to be greeted by a classroom of 7th graders glaring at her with apprehension and one communal thought?

Mrs. Teer, have you lost your mind?

She had us read the short poem out loud, our fear giving way to giggles. And unbeknownst to her, she began a tradition in my household between eldest and youngest siblings. For every spring since I left home, I’ve sent a postcard to my baby brother. There are two things on it: his address and the poem. No signature. No return address. Probably a confused mailman or two over the years. But it’s not spring until this goes out in the mail:

Spring is sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where
the flowers iz?

The bird is on the wing.
Now isn’t that absurd?
I always thought the wing
was on the bird.

After his son was born, my brother suggested that perhaps I’d want to start sending the postcard to my nephew. I think it was my brother’s way of suggesting he’d gotten too old for the ritual. Funny, the eldest [that would be me] enjoys it too much to quit. And this from a man who, the year I forgot to send the postcard on time, REMINDED me he hadn’t received any spring mail.

Although the mail will be e-mail this time, the tradition continues. Years ago I ran into Mrs. Teer and told her what she’d started. I don’t know which part of her was more pleased: the teacher who made an impression or the impish woman who’d tickled our funny bones while laughing along with us.

So nephew dear, I guess now it’s just you and me…..and our mutual friend, Odgen Nash.


Dave King said...

Send 'em to me, if you like. I'm not too old!

Susan said...

I'll never forget the look on my oldest daughter's face when one day we were stuck forever in a waiting room of some sort, and just to pass the time I started reciting all the Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein poems I knew by heart. There were a LOT, because I love them both. At first she pretended not to know me, but when I ran out of poems, she hesitated a few seconds then said, "Do the Octopus one again."

Ogden RULES.

hope said...

Dave I'll send you an e-mail one this year and if you'll send your mailing address, I'll surprise you with a postcard next year. :)

Susan...if it didn't sound weird, I'd say you complete me...because we're too much alike not to be related. :) My favorite Nash line is, "If called by a panther...don't anther."

I know some Shel Silverstein but not as well as "The Giving Tree".

So when your little Genius is driving you nuts, perhaps you should forget the shortest Nash of them all: "Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker." ;)

Have a great weekend!

Poetikat said...

Freaky! I just put "Spring is sprung, the grass is riz" on my MSN box next to my picture, last night. I couldn't recall the next line.

Too funny!

My husband picked up a lovely little hard-backed collection of Nash for me (from the 50s?) just last Sunday at one of our used bookstores in town.
Of course, I suppose I could have looked it up, couldn't I?


Poetikat said...

Hope, if you get a chance, check out a few of my Irish posts (pre-St. Patrick's Day) on Invisible Keepsakes. "The Crack" is one you might well enjoy.