A Grandfather's 'Mother Goose'

Now that the snow is upon us, and the long evenings, and there is the open fire before which I can sit and think, I try to catch my breath after an all-summer effort to catch up with my sons and my daughters, their wives and their husbands, their babies and their automobiles. How happy they are, and what gay, laughing babies they have; but how they bounce about, even when I hold them — the babies — on my knees.

‘It’s the motion of the motor car,’ their grandmother had said one morning when Jack, my namesake, was particularly ‘bouncy.’ ’His parents have been dashing around in a car from the day they met until this moment, allowing only three weeks off when she had to keep still in the hospital to welcome the child.'

All the time my wife was speaking, the baby had been moving up and down as though he had folding legs, and I kept murmuring ‘Hey! diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle,’ as that was the only tune as lively as his movements. ‘The cow jumped over the moon,’ I continued. ‘And the little dog laughed to see such sport — ’ The baby gurgled with glee. ‘And the dish ran away with the spoon.'

I brought him down, with a determined desire to have him keep still for just one moment. But it was no use, and now I sit here evenings by the fire, revising the lines of the old lady who made them.

‘Hey! divver, divver,’was my first attempt.

‘That’s a hideous and distorted word,’ said my wife.

‘Never mind,’ said I, ‘they live a hideous and distorted life, and anyway, even if they don’t, it rhymes.’ 1 calmly proceeded: —

‘Hey! divver, divver, the child and the flivver,
The car raced under the moon,
And the little lad laughed to feel such speed,
While Grandpa passed out in a swoon.’

‘Go on,’ said Jack’s grandmother; then, ‘No, you wait a minute, I have one,’ and she recited: —

‘There was a young woman who had a new car —

‘That’s the antithesis to the old woman who lived in a shoe,’ she explained gratuitously, ‘and is Marybelle.’ Marybelle is our daughter.

‘And also one infant, so they, with his Pa — ’

‘That’s an ugly word,’ I now interrupted, ‘a hideous, distorted use of the good word “father,” much worse than my “divver” for “diddle.”’ But my wife went right on: —

‘There was a young woman who had a new car, And also one infant, so they, with his Pa, Took thermos and basket with butter and bread. Locked up their home tightly, and outward they sped.’

‘That’s fair,’ said I.

‘Rock-a-bye, baby — ’

‘There are no more treetops for the babies,’ I interrupted, ‘unless the car lands in one.’

‘That does n’t matter in the least.’ My wife tossed that thought away with utter contempt, because ——

‘ Rock-a-bye, baby,
In a Ford car,
When the brakes jam,
The baby will jar.

‘Now you do one,’ she ordered, ‘It is n’t fair for me to have the whole responsibility of modernizing Mother Goose. Try “Little Miss Muffet.’” After a while I produced this: —

‘Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,
Feeding her car the gas,
There came a rude copper,
And he tried to stop her —
His widow’s now suing the lass.'

‘That’s rather blood-curdling,’ said Miss Muffet’s grandmother. ‘Now here’s mine, about your favorite grandchild and namesake: —

‘ Little Jack Horner sat in a corner,
Watching the scenery fly.
He wiggled his thumb at the end of his nose
When a motor-cyc cop came by.’

‘Well!’ I cried heartily, ‘I am rather proud of him for that. But not surprised. He comes of a long line of courageous ancestors — on both sides, my dear.’ I arose, bowed, kissed her hand, and so to bed, mumbling something about ‘Sing a song of cylinders, engine full of gas.’