One of the best purchases of our stay in the U.S. was a recommended Dr. Seuss book called, “The Sneeches and other stories.” One of the other stories has become a favorite of our girls (Owen doesn’t like it because it scares him at night!). It’s one of my favorites, too.
The other night I was reading it to Annie and Olivia and — trying to get through it quickly to get them into bed (anyone know what that’s like?) and suddenly the green pants came to life for me. They became two women at the kids’ school who I have always steered clear of. Why? Because they are the two stand-out women at the school- they stand out because they come to pick up their kids fully made up, high heels (walking on a sandy playground!); dressed to the t. Their children always wear the latest most expensive fashion in Japan. These kind of women in Japan scare me –perhaps because their lives (and, I pre-supposed, their values) are so different than my own.
Recently I was at a meeting in Annie’s classroom with all the moms. One of these two young moms, Mrs. N., came in late and had to sit next to me. The teacher was doing a lottery system to assign moms to help out with different special outings coming up during the year. When my name was picked, it was for the one event that I had NO IDEA what it meant. I had no recourse- I had to turn to Mrs. N and ask her if she could help me understand. To my surprise, she explained it simply with a kind smile (it was going with the class to a cultural play), and said it was a good pick because it is nearby and only lasts half a day. She was – gasp! – nice. And helpful. And down-to-earth.
The other mom came up to my in her high heels on the playground last week and asked about the English class that Eric was starting for first-graders. She wanted her son M. to participate. Yesterday was the first day and they both came to the trial lesson. After the class, I was helping Eric explain how the class works to the nine moms and collect the children’s work. I commented M. that his handwriting was really nice. He said in a very grown-up way, “My mom teaches me ABCs at home.” And then he added, “She sits with me a lot and helps me get better at school. And my grandfather teaches me kanji (the difficult Chinese writing system).” We continued for several minutes to have a very adult conversation.
On the way out I passed M.’s mom and told her about the conversation. She said he loves to talk to adults. I told her how impressed I was (as a fellow-mom of a first-grade boy who likes to talk about Mario, Star Wars, and underpants!). She humbly said thank you. And I walked out even more humbled, thinking about green pants and how they had suddenly become real to me. Here is the story for those who don’t know it.
well i izzy was walking in the night
and i saw nothing scary
for i have never been afraid of anything.
then i was deep within the woods
when suddenly i spied them.
i saw a pair of pale green pants
with nobody inside them.
i wasn’t scared but yet i stopped.
what could those pants be there for
what could a pair of pants at night
be standing in there for?
and then they moved those empty pants!
they kind of started jumping.
and then my heart i must admidt
i kind of started thumping.
so i got out i got out
as fast as i could go sir
i was not scared but pants like that
i do no care for no sir.
after that a week went by.
then one dark night in gribitch
i had to do an errand there and
fetch some grinitch spinach.
i was starting back through town
when those raced around a corner and
they almost knocked me down.
i lost my grinitch spinach
but i did nor even care
i ran home believe me
i really had a scare
now bicycles were never made for
pale green pants to ride ’em
especially spooky pale green pants
with no body inside ’em
and next night i was fishing
for doubt trout on rover river
when those pants came rowing toward me
i really started into shiver
and by now i was so frightened
that i’ll tell you but i hate to
i screamed and rowed away and lost
my hook and line and bait too!
i ran and found a brickle bush
i hid myself away
i got prickles in my britches
but i stayed there anyway
i stayed all night, the next night too
i’d still be there no doubt
but i had to do an errand
so the next night i went out
i had to do an errand
had to pick a peck of snide
in a dark and gloomy snide field
that was almost 9 miles wide
i said i do not fear those pants
with nobody inside them
i said and said and said those words
i said them but i lied them
then i reached inside a snide bush
and the next that i knew
i felt my hand touch someone
and i bet that you know who
and there i was caught in the snide
and in that dreadful place
those spooky empty pants and i
were standing face to face
i yelled for help i screamed i shriked
i howled i yowled i cried.
oh save me from those pale green pants
with nobody inside them.
but then a strange thing happened
why those pants began to cry
those pants began to tremble
they were just as scared as i
i never heard such whimpering
and i began to see
that i was just as strange to them
as they were strange to me.
i put my arm around their waist
and sat right down beside them
i calmed them down
poor empty pants
with nobody inside them
and now we meet quite often
those empty pants and i
and we never shake or tremble
we both smile and we say