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The Idle American
"On Children and 'Goose-Goofling..."
Wednesday, September 18, 2013 • Posted September 19, 2013

Perhaps it is a trivial thing, this business of “Goose” and “Google” beginning with the same three letters— or maybe not.

The former—with “Mother” in front of her name—is a remnant from centuries past. For hundreds of years, printed words—and those from the lips of loving parents and others putting children to bed—provided stories that activated vivid imaginations. On the winds of what was, what is and what might yet be whirled thoughts of young minds swept up in “play-like” worlds of make believe.

The latter, “Google”—a word so often attached at the hip to “it”—may play a more critical role than we realize. We may eventually count greatly on “Google” for details of the “Mother Goose” who used to be during glory days of youthful innocence. Here lately, she’s “flown the coop,” with absences ever lengthening….

    *****

Mother Goose was the property of no one—and everyone. A “feathery grandmother of make believe,” she was at home on many continents, her verses unquantifiable, a compilation of the thoughts of many minds.

Her fables, verses and rhymes were born in minds of many generations. Their words—some clever, or ridiculous or even absurd—seemed worth writing down, repeating and remembering.

They’re collected in that big memory repository so tenderly guarded by Mother Goose. Somehow, they’ve survived the centuries….

    *****

Her words were handy when we spent more time putting children to bed. The old bird was on good terms with the Good Book, lovingly linked for bedtime application.

Today, bedtime rituals more likely call for technicians. Buttons are pushed to access sounds, and pages—formerly turned—slide silently across iPad screens as children drift off to dreamland.

Those still in footed PJs are more likely today to recognize the AFLAC duck than the goose offering nursery rhymes….

    *****

Mother Goose, never “pushy,” was more of a “go along to get along” type. She’d be saddened today in a world where fear dominates. Children furrow brows now like their elders, rarely breaking into robust laughter like they used to.

Circumstances—something we’ve always lived “under”—are authors of fear. They grow ever more ominous, and we’re afraid far more often than we’re joyful.

Children learn early on take too much too seriously….

    *****

The other day, I heard a quiet conversation by a couple of youngsters, perhaps second graders. I was surprised at their leisurely conversational pace, as well as the topic, “Humpty-Dumpty.”

I resisted the impulse to mention that this is one of the hundreds of “Mother Goose” poems. After all, I was waiting in the mall for my wife to finish shopping. Besides, these youngsters already had a grandfather in tow.

Alas, the conversation grew serious. “I’ve heard that Humpty-Dumpty was pushed,” one said….

    *****

“Maybe so,” said the other. “And I’m sad for the first responders. Don’t you know they felt like they were walking on eggshells?”

Wow, thought I. Here was a kid who “imagined,” just as the old goose would hope.

My wife and I walked to our car, “clicking” the door lock a few feet away, then drove home, cruise control on and radio news blaring….

    *****

My mind hearkened back to simpler days and my long-departed grandfather, a man ever proud of his Hamilton pocket watch. It was chained to a belt loop, lifted dozens of times daily from its pocket resting place.

It was done methodically. Poppa stared at the time piece, usually saying nothing. It didn’t even have a second hand, nor was one needed. He had seconds to spare, this man whose activities rarely involved “punching in.” Quite simply, he worked from early ‘til late, usually six full days a week.

He always seemed happy. Though uneducated, he learned life’s hardships early on. Widowed at age 45, he was left with nine children, three of elementary school age. He had reason to be pensive, this man so very much at home in the cotton fields and on land dotted by cedar trees. It was his to pick the bolls of cotton, and, with his ax, turn the trees into cedar posts. As he stared at his watch, he was in deep thought. And we thought he was checking the time….

    *****

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. Twitter: @donnewbury.

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