Bizarre wee Beasties: Chapter 4 – Bimbo the Clown

Maybe you would like to read how this bedtime story began. You could check here –

Those Small Knitty Gritty Kids (or how it all came about)(click here)

 

Bimbo the Clown

“What about me, Mum? I was the first kid you made, wasn’t I?” Bimbo’s eyes look even smilier than usual. ”And you loved me SO much you made a twin of me, didn’t you Mum?” and he snuggles even tighter under my chin.

Sweet little guy. He always makes me smile. Bimbo and Gran and Grandpa are to blame for all the rescues that followed. Knitting the hundreds of stitches of countless foreign-looking pieces, stitching them together, stuffing them, and then sewing these fat little shapes in yet another exact sequence creates a deep bond with your ‘baby’. Impossible to imagine anyone, anywhere could have loved but then discarded and deserted these treasures.

Bimbo is a TWIN. His brother lives a six-hour drive away in the city; his name is Glen, and I made him for a special little boy, Liam, when he was born. I came to love him so much, a few years later I made another for myself and called him Bimbo. Soon after I’d finished Bimbo and let him take pride of place on our bed, Liam came to visit with his Mummy.

Liam was fine at first, demolishing cakes and biscuits and his drink of milk. But he became bored with our chatter and went exploring our house. When he returned, he had Bimbo clutched to his chest, eyes bright with excitement. “Look Mummy – it’s Glen. He got here before us.” Liam’s Mummy’s eyes widened. She hadn’t known about my Bimbo.

“He’s SO clever, Mummy,” Liam continued. “I thought I left him behind, but he’s here.”

Liam’s Mummy and I couldn’t keep our faces serious. When home-time came, it took much distraction (with lollies, as I remember) to coax Liam into the car without his Glen. He nodded off on the journey home—and when he awoke dashed to his room first thing, finding yet another miracle waiting.

“Mummy… look! Look! Glen beat us home!” And there he was, sitting on Liam’s bed, waiting for another cuddle. Bimbo had been such a good sport that day, never once letting Liam know who he really was. Always true to his own sweet nature, Bimbo enjoyed the extra hugs and kisses and never complained once.

But this is here and now, and Bimbo is excited with today’s attention and eager to hear another story about himself.

“What about the time I got badly mauled, Mum? Tell that one again,” and Bimbo wriggles even more tightly against me as I give in and continue.

One night—or maybe several—Bimbo was attacked and mauled as he sat on a shelf with the other Knitty Gritty Kids, napping through the night. Ferocious, greedy moths chewed into him under cover of darkness. I stop my story to say, “If only you’d cried out. You could have avoided so much of the damage—and all that pain!”

Bimbo’s smile droops. “I know. I just buttoned my lip and toughed it out. Was that wrong, Mum?”

I shake my head and hug my silent sufferer even tighter as we remember how I didn’t discover his injuries until I came to take his photo. Whilst arranging him to capture his best angle, my heart missed several beats as I caught sight of his terrible wounds. From the front, the worst had been hidden from view.

“Where was I hurt, Mum? I can’t hardly see any scars.” Bimbo twists and strains every which way.

“Well-ll… several spots on your arms and back and leg required only small stitches, but the hands? Phew… serious surgery.” Can’t help a shudder as once again I witness the damage to his poor little feet. “TOTAL reconstruction of the left, and partial of the right. How thankful I felt to have been your creator, so I could be your Surgeon, the sole member of your operating team.” And I squeeze him tightly once again and smooth the frown from his precious forehead.

Brave Bimbo came through his lengthy, tricky surgery in style, and after the shortest time, made a full recovery. Once again, his amazing bravery sees him refusing to discuss any part of his suffering – or feel sorry for himself – or let anyone else have bad thoughts about his horrendous experience, either.

“Although you love to hear the story, over and over, don’t you, little man?” And Bimbo grins and blushes a little. Mostly, he has put it all in the past where the worst nightmares belong. Why he those munching monsters chose him, and none of the other Knitty Gritty Kids, I can’t say. Bimbo IS deliciously handsome—but edible? Hmm… I don’t think so.

Imagine starting life as a twin but sort of not, then being a meal for mothies. It’s a worry – but someone had to grin and bear it… AND survive. And that someone was our beloved Bimbo, the bravest little clown we’ve known.

# # # # #

Back in ‘reality’ land, I have to lay the book down for a moment to blow my nose. That’s the one thing about reading aloud in bed – nose-blowing takes two hands. Itches and sniffs are OK, I can manage even the odd sneeze with one hand. Jonjon takes advantage of the moment to turn back to the picture of Bimbo. He wants to find the mothie attack wounds.

“Here!” He points triumphantly to Bimbo’s small left hand, and sure enough when we look closely at the picture, some raggy looking threads are sticking out. “And HERE!!” And Jonjon gasps, and so do I as we search for what Granny described as the worst of the attack. We see only the front view, but even that is grim. There were several gaping holes and Granny says they munched out most of the back of his feet.

I whisper, “Ohh no. This was dreadful. This must have been where Granny had to amputate and create a whole new foot… AND shoe.” We’re both speechless, near tears… for a few moments, anyway. And although we have no particular knowledge of these things, we spend some moments talking about surgery in general. I’m not sure how to say the ‘anna’ word that means you get ‘knocked out’, so I just tell Jonjon you get ‘put to sleep’ for a bit and you can’t feel anything. We spend a few minutes wondering if you dream when you’re having an operation. Mum might know. She’s had babies and things. Just need to work out a way to bring that subject into an ordinary kind of conversation. I’ll have to think on that.

Despite his sympathy, Jonjon is eager to find out who’s next. I take a quick peek and am delighted to tell him it’s the tallest and most impressive member of the family. And I already know the special person Granny named him after. That’s a lovely story of its own.

# # # # #

Next?  Chapter 5: Harry the Painter (click here)

 

Christine

Bizarre wee Beasties: Chapter 3 – Gran and Grandpa

Maybe you would like to read how this bedtime story began. You could check here –

Those Small Knitty Gritty Kids (or how it all came about) (click here)

Gran and Grandpa

“Aww, please Mum. Won’t you tell us a story for a change? Mum, it’s always us reading to the Knitty Gritty Kids–and we love that. We do.” Gran’s sweet old face looks anxious, screwed up with worry, as Grandpa chimes in, “Yes… what about us, Mum? Isn’t it our turn yet?”

How should I resist my old/new darlings? I’m putty in their hands and so I begin–THEIR story.

Despite their aged faces, Gran and Grandpa were only born a few years ago—with knitting needles, various balls of wool, a pattern and myself, a dedicated knitter eager to breathe life and character into them. I left the soul bit to a Higher Authority. With wisdom and grace Gran and Grandpa accept this end of Life.

“Age before Beauty,” they say. “The Spirit is Willing, but the Flesh falters somewhat these days.”
“We don’t want to ‘snuff it’ before fame comes our way… and that’s why we must be first,” they say. (And who am I to disagree?)

From Day One, Gran and Grandpa saw their role in Life to be watching over the Knitty Gritty Kids; teaching them wisdom and patience and respectful manners, too. Gran is The Good Manners Goddess. Every single mealtime (even at breakfast while the kids are still getting their eyes), you will hear Gran say…

“Sit up straight at the table, young lady. Do I have to put a ruler down your back?”
“Hand over the mouth when you yawn, dear. We need not see what you ate for breakfast.”
“No arguing or whining at the table–it curdles the milk.”
“DO NOT talk with food in your mouth–it’s perfectly disgusting.”

One memorable time in a flustered moment, she said, “DO NOT eat with food in your mouth!” The Knitty Gritty Kids first gasped – then giggled. Gran blushed that time!

Any elbows seen on the table while eating? Gran would say, “Elbows!” and point. Luckily the kids all have short, straight arms, so it’s one less ‘good manner’ to worry about.

And where is Grandpa while she teaches all these table manners? All he has to do is smile and pass them more of Gran’s delicious cooking. This gives him an excuse to have another helping himself. Gran pretends not to notice.

An adage says – ‘Be careful what you wish for… you just might get it’. With Gran’s dedication to Good Table Manners, she started the Knitty Gritty Kids off on the right path, requesting they give thanks for a meal, and ask permission to leave the table. She believed this would ensure small folk wouldn’t leave the table and return for another mouthful, and be off again and back again, and so forth and so forth. So Gran reasoned.

But the Knitty Gritty Kids (led by that rascal, Clarence the Clown) won this round. Every meal, they all wait for each other to finish, and then chant, in the most boring, sing-song way –

“Pl-e-a-s-e can we leave the t-a-b-l-e? And th-a-n-k y-o-u for t-e-a” (or break-f-a-s-t… or l-u-u-n-c-h).

And Gran and Grandpa have to sit there and grin through gritted teeth, and bear it – because this WAS what Gran wished for… wasn’t it?

Ahh dear! Here in bed I have to stop reading for a minute. Even though I only had one ‘voice’ to do I made it a funny sing-song one in a boring little up and down rhythm, and rolled my eyes in time. And now Jonjon and I laugh so much we almost fall out of bed. I’m not sure who’s getting the most fun out of this story.

Our Granny did such an impressive job creating these two characters. Don’t tell anybody, but I believe she used a pattern for a Mother and Father Christmas and combined it with a pattern for Humpty Dumpty – and sewed all the pieces back together again!

I take two deep breaths and deliberately DON’T meet Jonjon’s eyes. I will lose all if I do. The laughing will start, and we may not be able to stop this time. With great difficulty I continue the story. And we’re only in the middle of Chapter Three, the one about the dear little Gran and Grandpa characters she knitted!

Just because Gran is in her Sunday best, don’t be mistaken, don’t be misled. Gran is a marshmallow under her well-mannered outer face. A favourite place, doing an especially favourite thing, is reading to the most needy of the Knitty Gritty Kids – Sally and Sammy. But that’s another story.

Gran reads because she makes the best voices. Big, deep, growly ones (for wolves and bears and dinosaurs), and pretty, high, squeaky ones (for butterflies and princesses and fairies), and gruff, mean ones (for monsters and crooks and other grubby characters). Grandpa turns the pages so nobody misses even one word.

Gran and Grandpa love to cuddle the kids. It’s most important when each one first arrives–always in need of so much Tender Loving Care. All will need a wash, many require some repair, and for others, total replacements are necessary–even of essential body parts. It’s all part of the gentling these precious kids deserve after the horrors they’ve endured.

Gran interrupts my writing. As always, she’s keeping a most careful eye on everything. “We don’t enjoy thinking of their time before us,” she says and her chin quivers.

“We ONLY look FORWARD — “ says Grandpa, as Gran interrupts him. Her chin is firm now as she finishes his sentence for him. (She often does that these days – reckons he’s too slow!) “… to the best and happiest FUTURE that caring and kisses and cuddles—”

“…and reading cheerful stories out loud,” Grandpa rushes in to add that bit.

Gran frowns, but only for a moment and then she continues – “… can heal their worst wounds and fill their hearts with happiness once again.” And she nods.

Humph! Is it possible I somehow filled them with Love, instead of soft toy stuffing?

I close the book amid protests and growls and pleas. And bribes?? Really? I ignore all and tell Jonjon this is the perfect place to stop. Gran and Grandpa are such a wonderful example of the saying –

‘NEVER EVER OVERLOOK MATURE EXPERIENCE’

Because I know for a fact that Granny made these two many, many years ago especially to be the ones to look after the Small Knitty Gritty Kids in the ways they needed most… even when the Kids didn’t realise it themselves. That’s what ‘grandies’ do – all the time, all over the world. They have more time to spare when all their years of hard work are at an end. And there’s nothing ‘grandies’ love more than to spend as much time as possible with their children – and their grandkids. There is so much these charmers have to give.

Jonjon and I talk about this until I can tell, despite his hugest efforts, his eyes are drooping, his tongue beginning to stumble. Finally he gives in when I promise that tomorrow night he will hear about a brave little clown who has an amazing escape from danger – out of the darkness of a most unexpected place. It all sounds scary, but I hasten to reassure him it all comes out happily in the end.

Finally he gives in to his body, snuggles down, and drifts off to his Dreamland. In my imagination he is holding the hands of Gran and Grandpa. And they are chattering and laughing as they disappear into the mists of the improbable.

Next? Chapter 4: Bimbo the Clown (click here) 

Christine

Bizarre wee Beasties: Chapter 2 – Introduction by Ted Bear Esq.

Ta-ta-ta, dee diddle dee da-a-a-a-a-a-a-a! (Pretend drum roll, because my arms are too short!)

Harrhumm… LADIES AND GENTLEMAN. YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE!

It gives me the greatest pleasure to introduce you to a most famous group – the like of which you’ll rarely see in such numbers and diversity.
You know about the Beatles, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?
And hurrhum – Einstein, Thomas the Tank Engine, Elvis Presley?
Not to mention Smokey and the Bandit, and Mantovani – ahh… the list could go on forever.

Few can compare to the trials, the tribulations, the rejections and desertion these helpless and hapless small children have endured among the heaps of unwanted and no longer loved little rejects of Life.

Here are their stories – direct from their private, hidden retreat in the country these days, their safe place to fall, a home they never wish to leave. For humane and educational purposes they agreed to only a few photos and for our Mum to write the precious tales they’ve shared.

PARDON? Did you say you wanted to learn some of their names? (sigh) OK! If you insist!
There’s about sixteen (or more) of these little critters, so I’ll only tell you a few – to whet your appetite. Check these out –
Gran and Grandpa, Bimbo and Clarence (the clowns), Simon Scarecrow, Harry the Painter, Bert the Chimney Sweep, and Sally and Sammy – the disabled kids.
Not a cast of thousands, but each has a story they’ve entrusted to our Mum, and I’m not alone in thinking they are each rather special. But what can I tell you? With a mentor and kind of Father figure like ME, how could they go wrong??

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN- (l-o-o-o-o-o-n-g pretend drum roll)

THE SMALL KNITTY GRITTY KIDS!

“Oh, oh, oh... it’s beginning.” Jonjon is all but jumping out of his PJs, he’s so excited. “The voices, Sarah. Will there be voices now? Will there?” Now his bounces are so enthusiastic I’m in danger of dropping the precious book.

I nod enthusiastically… nothing less will do. Still, I warn him, if I don’t get some quiet, I won’t be able to continue. Well, that fixes everything. He freezes – same as he does in his beloved ‘What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf?’ game he plays with his pals.

And the voices I use now are most tricky. They have to be old as I can make them, but ‘stroft’. ‘Strong’ and ‘soft’ all at the same time. It’s a tough ask, but will impress Jonjon no matter how they come out. How lucky I saw that funny glinty shine in Ted Bear’s eyes when I opened the book to HIS page.

Could it be he’s given me some kind of magical powers… like Granny and I are the same, sort of? As though I know exactly how she felt when she wrote her precious words? That’s how it feels. STRANGE indeed… but kind of lovely and warm. I feel her smiling – truly I can.

I’m inspired to do the best job possible just for her (and it won’t be much of a chore doing this for Jonjon, either).

Next? Chapter 3: Gran and Grandpa (click here)

Christine

Bizarre wee Beasties: Chapter 1 – Introduction by Christine

“Shall we begin?” I shimmy into a relaxed position, pillows propped high, knees bent to support the book, Jonjon pressed against my side. When Mum reads to him, her arm is long enough to easily hold him AND his storybook… but mine isn’t yet. He hangs on tightly to my arm, ready to duck his face behind my shoulder if it all gets too exciting – or fearful. A few more wriggles to get comfortable, and we’re ready.

I am Sarah, reading bedtime stories to my little brother Jonjon, from our Granny’s printed book so he can see her wonderful pictures as I read. In my heart I love her handwritten early drafts more… especially after seeing her fantasies develop. “I’m just growing them,” I imagine her saying. Jonjon and I study the cover, but not for long. He is impatient to get going, to learn about the writings of this Granny – Christine Larsen. Her life ended well before his began.

Jonjon CAN read, but only simple words so far. More important to him is what he says next… “I LOVE all your funny voices,” and he can’t help a few bounces, as if to hurry me along. “Please, PLEASE, let’s start.” His small, twitchy fingers pick at the corner of the page. Knowing there will be no holding him back now, I turn to Granny’s opening words before we end up with a torn page. That would NEVER do!

Chapter 1 – Introduction by Christine

The natives became restless when they learned of Ted Bear’s story, ‘The Talebearer’ and all the extra attention the Main Character (Ted Bear Esquire) attracted.

The ‘natives’ are the Small Knitty Gritty Kids, and although they’ve had their moment in the sunlight on my website, it IS true the little darlings missed out on a more specialised spotlight being beamed on each of them. And if anybody deserves recognition and praise, these Small Knitty Gritty Kids do. Since Ted Bear squished my heart into a soft, doughy kind of shape, I’ve been putty in their small knitted hands.

Here in Jonjon’s bed I pause for a moment to sigh. Uncertain where this reaches me from, but the strangest ‘knowing’ says it’s exactly what Granny would have done on this occasion. My modest audience of one is unaware of anything but his next question, as he twists around to peer into my eyes.

“Sarah? Granny knitted them? That’s why they’re called Knitty kids?”

“Well, yes and no, possum.” (He loves when I call him ‘possum’). “Granny only made four of them herself. She told Mum that was about the limit of her patience.”

“Why?!?” (Oh, really! Does this child know any other response? Over and over he asks that eternal ‘why’.) “All those funny parts needed labelling, so she didn’t forget ‘what was what’ when the time came to piece them together! That’s what tried her perseverance to its limits… OK??”

But Jonjon is still frowning, his slim dark eyebrows drawn tight. Slowly he repeats “OK… but what’s the ‘Gritty’ bit? Did Granny mean they turned up from a sandpit?” Abruptly his face lights up like the sun breaking through the gloomiest of clouds. “That’s the ‘Gritty’ bit. I get it!”

“No, smartypants. You don’t ‘get it’ at all. Now SHH!… Jonjon. Let me finish Granny’s Introduction – and then there’ll be one from Ted Bear Esquire—”

He HAS to interrupt again. “With his gruffy voice, Sarah? P-L-E-A-S-E??” I have to smile at his earnest little face. As he snuggles down again, I read the rest of Granny’s first chapter.

Some thoughtless souls call my kids soft toys, but not me. I make them up of so many funny-shaped pieces, none of them ever becoming individual characters until bodies and souls become sewn into one. Having knitted four of the Knitty Gritty children myself, I understand how love and dreams weave themselves into every fibre of their being. This is where the Knitty part of their name comes from.

Then there’s ‘true grit’, another thing altogether. It’s a unique name for courage in the face of great adversity. It’s about hanging in there when the going gets too tough to bear. These are genuine stories from the mouths of babes—unwanted, unloved anymore; dumped on the trash-heap of life; all hope gone; rejected and dejected, UNTIL—wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles—a Rescuer Extraordinaire bearing my name entered this Black Hole and shone a light, and Hope was reborn.

After seven decades together, Ted Bear Esq. and I certainly know the value of love that lasts forever and ever and ever.

Jonjon has been bursting to speak. Easy to see by the fidgets of his fingers, clenching and wriggling and tapping them on his thumbs. But he waits until the end of the chapter. Quite an achievement in self-control. “So… the ‘wee Beasties’ are Granny’s Knitty Gritty kids?” he asks.

“YES! Just like you are being a wee beastie right now! LISTEN… instead of interrupting me all the time! It’s Ted’s turn!” Jonjon’s grin threatens to split his face right in two.

Coming next: Chapter 2: Introduction by Ted Bear Esq. (click here)

Christine

Bizarre wee Beasties: Those Small Knitty Gritty Kids(or How it All Came About)

“Sarah? Sarah?” I hear the voice, but it’s a dream, isn’t it? …Until, “SARAH ANN MOYLE!” jolts me wide awake. The first was Jonjon’s, the second my mum’s. Once again I’ve fallen asleep reading a bedtime story to my little brother. As Mum’s head disappears behind the door, I’m awakened now, but flustered; searching for a reason for my unexpected sleepiness. Could be because I’m ‘thirteen going on thirty’, like Mum always says… and follows that with – ‘back when I was young’. All that yibbity-yabbity-doo can exhaust a brand-new teenager!

I drag my attention backward to the current read. And as I look at Jonjon squashing down a yawn, I realise my unexpected doze-off isn’t tiredness at all. His fidgets and head scratching and nose-picking tell me it’s boredom we share – but I have no wish to blame the book. It IS a delightful story. I loved it when I was young. I don’t know, seems to suggest I need something more… uhrr... lively, maybe? To fire up my imagination, I’m thinking. Like using funny sounds to play games with the words. Big bad gruffy voices and little squeaky, scaredy ones. Then we’ll both stay wide awake and eager. Won’t we?

This book IS wonderful. I loved it when I was younger. Maybe that’s the problem. I’ve read it so many times before that reading it aloud is SO predictable for me now. It’s not only knowing it so well, but the story doesn’t have IT for the more mature reader, like myself. I flounder about, trying to figure out an alternative. And out of the blue, there it is. Been there all along, I guess, tucked into a dusty corner of my think-tank.

“What? What? Whatsa matter Sarah?” Jonjon says as I bound out of the bed, almost falling in a tangle of bedclothes.

“SHHHH…” I hiss. “If you don’t lay down and close your eyes, I won’t be able to find the surprise.” There’s Buckley’s chance of him doing that, but it’s worth a try. For once he listens to me – and when I hint at a most special book brand-new to him though it’s old, he’s at full attention. He snuggles down with only nose and scrunched-up eyes showing. As long as Mum or Dad don’t come too close to see he’s only faking sleep, he’ll get away with it. How that little boy loves his books. Always has. Most of the six years of his life.

I sneak up to the attic and the big old oak box with its lift-up lid… just like the time I followed Mum when she went looking for one of Granny’s diaries to check an important date. Granny’s great carved Oak ‘glory box’ or ‘hope chest’, intended for storing all the linens (and dreams) of young unmarried ladies. But Granny had other treasures to keep safe from moths and mice – her precious writing books and photos. It was for similar protection, including sneaky attacks from silverfish and mould.

Memories of that secret snooping time, AND the stories Mum had shared with me when I was younger came rushing back. How I miss them since she stopped reading them to me. A tear or two fall. I didn’t break that manuscript into hundreds of separate sheets on purpose.! It slipped. And fell. And I don’t know why I started laughing. Deep inside, I wept. I hope she’s forgotten… and haven’t dared remind her. Ohh, I SO want to prove to Mum and Dad I CAN look after a book and it WAS just a terrible accident. And I need to teach Jonjon what a treasure all books are… Granny’s in particular. I’ve always loved them more than any other.

Now, as I creep up the stairs (and I know all about the creaky ones and when to only tread on the outside of a step, or even miss that squeakiest one altogether), I’m confident I won’t be caught. Mum and Dad are downstairs, satisfied I’m reading to Jonjon. And the box? The best news is that it’s not locked because that lid is SO heavy to lift, Mum knows it’s safe from little kiddies’ prying fingers. But big girls and bookworms? That’s another matter. And big girls and bookworms and curiosity and stubbornness? There is a formidable combination.

A monster heave or three, and just I’m thinking my bravado could all be used up, with a creak, the lid eases open. I’m sweating like an apple out of cold storage, but there’s Granny’s treasure – exposed to the world again at last. Rubber bands hold together a great heap of her writing books and a pile of papers. I choose a few books and one bundle, and clutching them tightly to myself, close up again, covering the lid with its patchwork cover – another of Granny’s fantastic creations. I study box and cover for some moments, finally turning away and leaving, satisfied no-one will find anything out of place. Time enough for complete honesty when I’ve proved my belief… that Granny knew how to capture the hearts of both kiddies and their ‘young at heart’ out loud readers.

Creeping back in our room at last, I find Jonjon struggling to stay awake. The added excitement and tension of my mission to the attic after his regular full-on day has topped him off. Swollen, heavy eyelids and one yawn after the other ensure he’ll take only a peek at the books before he snuggles under his quilt without further protest. His sleepy smile shows how he loves that book cover Granny created.

“See Jonjon? Just like I promised, stories for tomorrow night, and the next, and the next. But DON’T tell ANYONE, remember?” With an almost imperceptible nod of his head, his eyelids fall down and he drifts away – to that special dreamworld he adores describing, where all his fantasies come true.

I’m blessed – to hold Granny’s precious words and experience once again our loving connection. It’s a long, long time since I cuddled against her as she stroked my hair… or sat in front of her as she brushed and brushed it, over and over. I’ll always keep that little stool safe. The one I sat on, the one I always thought of as MY stool, the one she covered with her hundreds of tapestry stitches forming a flood of flowers. What an artist. How many hours must she have spent on this project alone?

But her artistry never shone more brightly than here, in her magical words. And as I open one book filled with her writing, I smile so deep inside I can’t help my mouth stretching to match. I smile at the way her words rush across the page as though they hadn’t been able to come out of her pencil fast enough. Such a difference to her long-considered and shaped writing when she wrote in greeting cards, or special letters. I know how much she prized her handwriting… her ‘penmanship’ she called it, harking back to an earlier age when things like this carried great importance. ‘A good handwriting,’ she’d say, ‘… and a good handshake. That’s the mark of a distinguished man. A man to trust.’

Still, who could forget seeing her riding high on a wave of inspiration when she’d forget everything around her, writing as if possessed. And she was. Times like that, her handwriting became little better than a scribble, sometimes only intelligible to her… even giving her pause and raised eyebrows and frowns when she came to transcribe them into her computer. I was so glad I had chosen both the hand-written and type-written copies of the same book. It had been a deliberate choice, remembering how many times she worked over the many print-outs to get to a final edition, ready for the world. I loved seeing the contrast as her stories grew.

Granny held the firmest opinions about cover pics. I didn’t always understand what the old dear meant at first, when she talked of ‘same-old-sameness’ about too many ‘so-called professional‘ covers. She’d raise a tissue to her nose and sniff, her face wearing a frown about as disgusted as I ever saw it.

“They would criticise mine, even laugh in some know-it-all circles,” Granny would say. “And I should care? I should imagine, even for a teensy minute, THEY would have a better knowledge and understanding for MY creations than I do?” She’d pause and sniff again, her face a picture of the greatest disdain; eyebrows raised to their highest above eyes that rolled round their sockets in her best mock-theatrical performance.

Back before I learned to keep my mirth silent and contained, I experienced the full weight of that look many, many times, as she said, “SARAH!’ in an unmistakable tone of voice. Awesome. There’s no other word. How I loved that old lady. How I missed her and the particular colour she brought to my Life. And to all those around her. And even many folk far, far away, who only recognised her by her words.

As I slide down in my bed, my trusty reader’s headlamp pointing its beaming finger onto Granny’s book, I find my eyes refusing to leave the cover. Ohh, I l-o-v-e that picture you chose, Granny. The thought is a mutter on the wings of a lengthy sigh… almost as if she hears me. No, couldn’t be. I shake myself.

I try to imagine when first she saw this strange and lovely photo of a stone path wending its way down from a misty and mysterious world where light filters through bare tree branches. I fancy she shivered with the crispness in the air; in the magical scene lit by the twinkle of a billion stars above. And the Small Knitty Gritty Kids would start wandering down the rough steps from their Dream-time to find their most fantastic imaginings were about to come true.

‘Born Again…’ Granny wrote. And thanks to her, each tiny woolly soul WAS reborn — by her loving hands — those special ones of the ‘Rescuer Extra-ordinaire’.

THAT was twenty years ago? REALLY? It’s as close as yesterday. And yet here is little Jonjon (oops, sorry Jonathon) a grown man now, with two small children.Wouldn’t he just love hearing me call him that little kiddy Jonjon again in front of them? I imagine it was his reminding me about being the custodian of Granny’s books that set this clearest of my memories rolling. That. And his request for me to read to his babes. C’mon sis, he said, make the voices of those darling little characters our Granny wrote so well. Make them live again. Like you did for me. Please! He knows I’ll do it… what a sucker I am for reading aloud.

And just like that, it’s yesterday once more.

Coming next: Chapter 1: Introduction by Christine (click here)

Christine

Bizarre wee Beasties: Chapter 9 – Sally and Sammy, the Disabled Kids

Sally and Sammy

This night Mum brings another pillow and sets it up at the head of the bed with Jonjon and me.

“You’re going to be right here with us, Mum? Really?”

“How come, Mum?” Always love Jonjon’s curious face – all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ever eager for an answer.

“Well-ll-ll, I thought Ted Bear was overdue for a kiss atop his head. And as I straightened up, his eyes twinkled again.” And so did Mum’s. They always do when she mentions Ted. She loves him exactly like Granny did, she always says. Made a promise to Granny, she told us… to always care for him.

“… and that twinkle spoke to me and I just found myself drifting towards your bedroom.” Now a little chuckle escapes. This is not the first time Ted Bear has had that effect on his beloved family. I see it takes quite an effort for Mum to pull her face straight and serious.

“Now back to this bullying conversation I promised. OK?”

Jonjon’s face puckers. “But where’s Dad? Isn’t he going to be here, too?” He relaxes again when Mum tells him Dad will be in to kiss us all goodnight on his way to an important meeting he must attend.

“Ohh…OK!” His reluctance to accept this is obvious, but then Mum puts her arm around Jonjon and talks lovely to him about laughing at him last night.

“We weren’t laughing at you being stuck in a rubbish bin,” she says, with a kiss on his forehead, where she continues to stroke his fringe off his face.

Jonjon’s bottom lip juts out like a gutter on a house. “Maybe you weren’t,” and he turns to me. “Sarah? You were laughing. What were YOU laughing at?”

I have to give him a little peck on that smooth cheek – just have to – it’s flushed with his crossness and just a touch of embarrassment too. “I was laughing at my mind picture of a little boy falling out of a teapot spout.” And I can’t help it, I start giggling.

“SARAH!” Mum warns, but I see the twinkle in her eyes. “Jonjon was just lucky there was no really mean intent behind his ‘bullying’ episode. Sounded to me it was a bit of push and shove that accidentally went bad.” She raises one eyebrow and Jonjon reluctantly nods his head as he says, “BIT of a push? But…—”

“I know. BUT – it could have ended up much worse. You could have hit your head badly on the wall behind those bins. I remember that tall brick wall. That could have been really bad.”

Jonjon nods enthusiastically. “I could’ve needed stitches – lots and lots of them. Doctor would prob’ly need a sewing machine. My head could’ve split right down the back,” and he rubs his head as if to make sure there’s no crack there.

Mum sucks in her cheeks for a moment, takes a couple of deep breaths, and continues, “Exactly! People don’t always think about how easily a harmless prank can turn serious. I was thinking of damage to your little spine too, precious.” And she snuggles him tighter and smiles lovingly over his head at me.

“But tonight, if Sarah would like, I’d love to read to you about one of Granny’s best-ever rescues – a brother and sister this time!” She pauses [and raises her eyebrows questioningly as I nod back vigorously]. Her voice ramps up several levels on the excitement scale, and so does Jonjon’s enthusiasm. Yesterday’s bullying is all but forgotten.

“A brother and sister, Mum? Like me and Sarah?”

“Well-ll, sort of. But these two look as if they’re actually twins, and their names sound like it too.” As Jonjon draws breath, she hurries on. “They are Sally and Sammy – and they were not only deserted and lost when Granny found them, they both also had a terrible disability.” She wasn’t quick enough this time to avoid Jonjon’s question.

“A dissa… uhrr disha… erm – dishwasher?Huh Mum?”

“DIS-A-BIL-ITY. It’s when someone doesn’t have one of the abilities most of us have – like walking and talking, seeing and hearing… all kinds of things like that.” And she holds her hand up to stop Jonjon. “Sally and Sammy have no eyes and they were bullied terribly because they are blind.” Jonjon’s eyes are huge and his jaw has dropped wide open. Have to admit, so has mine.

“Mum? You mean deliberately bullied? Someone was THAT cruel?” I can’t believe Mum is nodding her head. She tells us things Sally and Sammy shared secretly with Granny sometimes when no-one else was around.

“One time, some of Sally’s so-called ‘friends’ told her they’d make her pretty, and pretended to put makeup on her face. But instead they made her cheeks and nose bright red as a clown and smeared lipstick so her lips looked huge and horrible. Then they wrote STUPID on her forehead, and smeared cream all through her hair, telling her it was hair-setting-gel to make her hair pretty and curly, and not to touch it until it was dry.”

I hardly know whether to cry or be really, really angry. I can see Jonjon’s face showing the same, and then he says, “… and Sammy? What did they do to Sammy?”

Mum looks even sadder and says, “They stole his hat and tossed it to each other, turning him every which way until he was so giddy he fell down. And it seemed there was at least one mean person every day to stick out a foot as he passed, to trip him over.”

Jonjon’s bottom lip is trembling and a tear or three hover on the lower rims of his eyes. Right in the nick of time Dad walks in to say his goodnights and encourage Mum to get on with reading the story before it gets too much later. When he leaves the room, she raises a finger at Jonjon and says, “See? It’s more than time for the story now.”

# # # # #

Of all my rescues of kids and critters, there were two small characters who have to take top place on the ‘true grit’ list – Sally and Sammy.

It was an ordinary kind of a day and I was just killing some time really, having a half-hearted wander around a not too clean charity shop (that also smelled disgustingly stale and full of old unwashed clothesy sort of odours). I had already decided there was nothing I wanted from this place. It really just wasn’t nice at all.

As I walked by, I glanced idly into a large old chrome shopping trolley full of dime a dozen soft toys in quite nasty states of disrepair. It was so icky, I didn’t even feel like rummaging through them – until I spied a couple of brighter ‘knitted’ arms or legs or something. So I bravely took a plunge and a grip and came up with… Sally!

You’ve probably noticed in the picture, she has a basket on her arm. A basket full of mushrooms. Well-ll-ll… that was IT for me. I’m a mushroom gatherer from forever ago – when I was just a little girl and would head off over the paddocks with Mum and Dad and other family and friends. Oowhaa… mushies in gravy on toast… yummo! So I just HAD to rescue Sally.

And then, as I headed towards the door, I happened to glance up at a high shelf, and there was her brother… and surely he was her twin? Same coloured blouse on her as the shirt on him; same floppy farmer-type hat with a red band, but most importantly (and worst) of all – they were disabled kids. Blind from birth, it would appear. See – no eyes.

What sort of small Mother could have abandoned children with such huge needs of love and support? Bad enough to live in a big, black world – but one with no loving comfort of warm arms, sweet whispers into their ears, lots of little kissies and stuff like that? And they’d been separated from each other – dirty, despairing, down-trodden and destitute. Simply heart-breaking.

After their cleanup, I seriously considered Surgery – eye implants, maybe. But alas, I’m no Fred Hollows (the world renown eye surgeon who restored the eyesight to hundreds of thousands and trained a number of teams to carry on his work when he no longer could). I must say, I’m thinking even he may have had to put this case in the too hard basket. But for another, much more important reason (or so I felt) . . . I needed to respect their dignified acceptance of their condition, and do nothing more than heap kisses and cuddles on them.

As time has passed, I’ve been satisfied with this decision. Sally and Sammy have taught the other Knitty Gritty Kinds SO many lessons about respect, and appreciation of the type of courage and determination these two demonstrate – every single day. And there’s stuff like tolerance and understanding – but most of all about love and caring and trying to help Sally and Sammy live their best possible Life.

I understand they had a chat with one of Ted Bear’s mates, Wilfrid Wabbit about the possible value of a carrot diet improving their eyesight. Wilfrid can’t say for sure. He was born with weak eyes and already has to wear specs, although he’s only a youngster yet. BUT, he has his carrot a day and believes his vision will be 20:20 before he gets to his ‘terrible teens’.

Although their favourite food in the world is bananas, as you see in the photo above, and they raid the bowl often, they are giving thought to the question of carrots. For now, their major problem is they sometimes they find themselves in unusual places, like this time – in the fruit basket! (And they love to say they don’t know HOW on Earth they arrived there!) I guess I should tell them off for sitting in and on the fruit, but look at their smiley faces. They are having such a good time – I don’t have the heart to stop them. And they do love bananas SO much.

When all their sprucing up was done I was able to more clearly see what was peeking out of Sammy’s hat. (Oh… how I love the sound of their names together.) Yes… so Sammy has a small mouse who’s chewed a little hole in his hat and is checking out the world around him. Sammy is such a sweetheart, he has no hassles about being the chauffeur for mousey – nor – the little Red Robin who lives on his shoulder. She makes him feel like singing that old song –

When the Red, Red Robin,

Comes bob, bob, bobbing along…

And Sally has a small buzzy-bee on her hat. She doesn’t mind him either. I understand they’re the best of pals.

In this photo, you see them sitting in their Dad's chair

In this photo, you see them sitting in their Dad’s chair. They just love that it’s really, truly OLD – like about 180 years! They love to sit there and see if they can absorb the memories of nearly two centuries. It makes them feel quite young again. We feel exactly the same whenever we have a few quiet moments sitting in it.

Some years ago, an old friend restored this chair to a beautiful state, telling us that it was now up to us to give it the patina (or warm, welcoming glow) that only daily sitting in it can produce. Having been rescued and restored themselves, Sally and Sammy REALLY take any opportunity they can to help with this chore – always ready to just hang out and chat to each other in the special chair.

They tend to bumble about quite a lot because they never managed the white stick business – and a seeing-eye dog is out of the question so far, as they haven’t yet found a dog small enough (or trained for this special job).

What’s a Mother to do with a pair like this?

Just love them, I say.

# # # # #

“Just ONE more, you ask?”

“Ohh pur-l-e-a-s-e Mummy lovey, lovely Mummy.” Have to chuckle. He’s such a terrible little crawler when he REALLY wants something. But Mum’s not fooled. Happens she’s nice and warm and cosy and enjoying the stories just as much as we are. And of course, where do you suppose I learned to do all the cutesy voices?? Well-ll-ll…

“Sarah?” she asks. No pressure… I’m ready as can be to read the next chapter. SO many funny names. I loved this one.

# # # # #

NEXT:   CHAPTER 10: WORZEL GUMMIDGE   

Bizarre wee Beasties: Chapter 8 – Clarence the Clown

Bimbo and Clarence

Clarence was not even tinily funny when I first met him. To be honest, he was filthy and had some raggedy spots. Even worse, he smelled awful. He was in a shopping trolley amongst a stack of other rejects of the toy variety. How my heart ached to see all those needy and worthy small people. How I wished I could rescue them all. I’m sure each one was a truly worthy character. But I could take just one this time – and I chose Clarence the Clown.

Poor fellow, he needed a strong wash cycle in my washing machine to even begin to get his act together. Mostly I can hand wash my rescued treasures, and my Knitty Gritty Kids were extremely grateful for the tender loving care I lavished upon them. Clarence had needs far greater than the worst of my small lost souls – with dirt deeply ingrained; there was just no choice but a sturdy mechanical wash cycle for him. And yet… his sense of humour is such that I swear I heard him shout ‘WHEE-EE-EE’ and ‘YIPPEE-EE-EE‘ as he whirled around at great speed in the Spin cycle. His comic spirit and eternal quest for new adventures are simply irrepressible.

Clarence tells me his name was inspired by a poem by Archie Langford. He says he fell in love with it when he read the first rhyme –

I remember when I joined the circus

A circus of great renown,

I wore baggy clothes and a little red nose

And they called me Clarence the clown.

And when he heard the ‘other’ Clarence’s first job was following elephants and horses with a bucket and spade, it all came rushing back to him. NOT the happiest of memories! Especially when he heard the last job the ‘other’ Clarence had was the exact same one the Ringmaster threatened him with right before he left. Even talking about it caused him to shake so hard he nearly lost his bright pink pompom on his hat. He absolutely refused to be the cannonball clown, to be shot out of the mighty barrel. His balloons would NEVER survive… and he feared, nor would he.

Clarence overcame his sadness about all the things he couldn’t do well, like juggling and sawing ladies in half and trapezing up in the great heights of the Big Top. He tried his hardest to fold balloons into clever look-alike animals, but they looked more like tornadoes-turned-twisters, and usually he got his hands tied up in knots instead. That was when he decided to use his balloons to hit people. Gets rid of a heap of crossness, Clarence told me.

Interesting, that crossness bit, because I often wonder about him having a dark side – a slightly ‘off’ type humour. It was those eyebrows made me suspicious at first… and it is my imagination, or do I see an overly mischievous glint in his eyes? Hmm… when you consider one of his pet loves is to bounce his balloons on the other Knitty Gritty Kids’ heads, you have to wonder! See poor Bimbo’s face? He looks as if he doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry; looks like he’s thinking, That’s enough Clarence. Enough! STOP IT!

Strange thing, this… You wouldn’t think Clarence would be guilty of any bullying-type behaviour, after having been a victim himself – way, way back in Clown Technical High School. He told me about it one stormy night long ago, when he was cuddled up because he was still a newbie then, still afraid we’d send him on his way just like others had before. Sometimes he would act up quite badly, just like he was ‘testing the waters’ – trying to see if we still loved him when he was naughty. Took a while to learn we would love him always – BUT – he did have to learn to live by our house rules.

I guess it’s no wonder Clarence is a bit of a rebel – often a bit too cheeky for his own good. When I found him, he looked as though he’d had a pretty rough time of Life already. Must be hard to be funny if someone has broken your heart and not wanted you anymore… must take a lot of pretending you don’t care. It’s taking some time, but Clarence IS learning a lot about the healing power of love and togetherness from the rest of the Knitty Gritty Kids. They understand. Each one of them has been through their own particular stresses and trials.

# # # # #

Beside me in bed there’s been a bit of squirming and scrunching up of small knees, jabbing themselves into my leg. Now Jonjon tightens his mouth and in a wobbly voice, says, “I was bullied, too.” And he ducks his head and sniffs loudly, although there are only crocodile tears and no true runny nose problems. I stretch my neck to look up under his downturned face and see he’s peeking out below his eyebrows to see how Mum or Dad are looking, hearing this news. Will they say anything?

Dad turns his head to one side and his face looks doubtful. You can see he wants to believe Jonjon, but this is the first he’s heard about any problems of the bullying kind. Mum nods. She suspected something the other day when Jonjon came home from school, she says. Now she asks if I knew anything. Happened this time I didn’t, but I’d been feeling a tad confused by a difference in his attitude, too. He was a little quieter, maybe. A few unexplained deep frowns crunkled his brow… stuff like that. But he never confided in me and just brushed me off like a pesky mozzie when I asked if he was OK. He’s kept it all dammed up for too long. His puckered up face clearly shows he wants to tell us now. I like that about Granny’s stories. The magical way they help kids open up about their own problems.

“It was Janey Walker. She started calling me names about being the butcher’s kid and saying mean stuff about you, Dad!” Jonjon’s face reddens and glowers with anger, remembering the hated words. “And… and… she shoved me, and then I shoved her back. And we did that a few times, but you know how big and solid she is – suddenly she was doing all the shoving, with each rude word she said, and I didn’t see what was right behind me, what we were getting closer to with each shove!”

“What?” I can’t help interrupting, trying to picture the fight scene and two ‘gangs’ of kids cheering these two on.

“The row of rubbish bins, that’s what!” Jonjon’s voice is indignant now he has the full attention of his audience. “She gave one humongous shove and sat me kerplonk right inside one of them. And… AND… she’s a GIRL!!!” I steal a quick glance at Mum and Dad. Their faces reflect the same horror my face feels like it’s showing. At the same time they seem to be tightly hiding a smirk at the picture his words draw, just as I am.

Once again, he grabs my chin and turns my face to be almost nose to nose with him. “But even that’s not the WORST, Sarah! I couldn’t get out again. My bottom was stuck tight DOWN and my legs were right UP in the air.” I have to fake a sneeze and a cough… there’s no other way to get through this moment. I notice Mum and Dad seem to be in the self-same predicament.

I can’t stop myself from saying, “Just like that little teapot, short and stout, your gang had to tip you over and pour you out!” I can’t help it. I explode into gales of laughter. And once again, Mum and Dad share the same problem. Luckily, the humour of the story has hit Jonjon too, and before you know it, we’re all rolling about the bed like a pocketful of monkeys.

Mum’s the first one to recover… sort of. She sucks in her cheeks. The twinkle in her eyes shows she’s not tinily fooled by Jonjon’s ploy to stretch out his bedtime. His story is correct – he doesn’t lie – but he IS playing it out to its utmost. “We’ll talk more tomorrow night about bullying and ways to handle it, OK? But for now it’s time for sleep because you’ve shared your worries – and you know the old saying?” And she waits for Jonjon and I to chant together – ‘A trouble shared is a trouble halved’.

“EXACTLY!” she says in her best ‘no-nonsense-you’re-going-to-sleep-RIGHT-now’ voice. As I head off to my own bed and Dad yawns and stretches his arms wide, Mum smooths Jonjon’s ruffled hair and kisses each pink cheek – one to chase away bad dreams and the other to welcome only good ones. A firm tuck-in, a kiss from Dad, and it’s lights-out… and a repeat performance in my room.

# # # # #

NEXT?  CHAPTER 9: SALLY & SAMMY, THE DISABLED KIDS – click here

It really is Time…

to pay attention to this dear site.

It’s just that I’ve been SO busy everywhere else. But now I have a particular story to tell here.

It didn’t win a competition I entered for judgement on its beginning chapters, or even come anywhere near.

BUT it has been part of an anthology  –

AND I am thrilled to have been part of that ‘volunteer’ collection –

AND that eBook is on sale on Amazon now –

STRONG WOMEN

Strong Women by [NeoLeaf Press, Stephen Brayton, Cassandra DenHartog, Dennis Maulsby]

The spiel that introduces the anthology says it beautifully –

The phrase ‘strong women’ can refer to countless things, from historical achievements, to self-made business women, to the strongest mothers out there. Strong Women is an anthology just about that, from the authors of the magazine Mom’s Favorite Reads. This collection of stories, featuring new and award-winning authors, span from a martial arts detective, to a girl working in a haunted café, all the way to a lady who takes down the queen of demons with a blessed baseball bat. You’ll be thrown into action, laughs, and even some chills.

Proceeds of this anthology go to help continue to keep Mom’s Favorite Reads free for everyone. The volunteers who keep this magazine running donate countless hours writing, editing, and producing this magazine. Help support them and in return get a great collection of stories.

I am proud to be a part of this worthy anthology.

BUT BEST OF ALL (as far as I’m concerned), at last, I can put the whole story up here for any and everyone to read for free – and because it’s on this pretty site, I can include all the pictures. Here is the cover to hopefully tempt you to enter into my word of  –

I exert the moral right to be listed as the originator and owner of this work.  © 2019 Christine Larsen

 

There are old faces and new,

both human and of the wee Beasties variety, but fear not,

ALL are sweet and good friends –

to each other and to all who share their histories.

Please keep an eye on this site – I will be working in the background for a bit, copying this story and all its pics from another home where they’ve been resting for far too long.

The action WILL begin – very, very SOON!

 

Christine

 

 

Newest kids on the block!

The first ‘new kid’ is actually the self-publishing site itself called Tablo Publishing.

I learned about it on The Drum at ABC Business News – sounded interesting, so I’m giving it a go.

So the next ‘new kid on the block’ is my latest small children’s book –

When Sampson met Delilah

and the cover looks like this  –

Front current

Continue reading