It has been three years since my last visit with my second oldest son’s family. Sam and Sara Jane were living at Newport News at that time with two kids. Now they’re in New Braunfels, Texas, with three kids. Their youngest, Levi, is two years old. Since Gammon and Harrison are in first grade and pre-school at County Line Elementary, Sara Jane managed to arrange for Papa Doc to do storytelling for their classes.
The morning after I arrived in Texas, we all showed up in Harrison’s room. With Sam helping out by loaning me his guitar and voice, we mixed in a couple of John Prine songs with Uncle Reemus and Tacky the Penguin. Then, we did our shtick again for the first graders in Gammon’s room right after lunch.
With Sam demonstrating the hand motions and providing encouragement and cheerleading, we had them singing “That’s the Way the World Goes Round” right off the bat. Both groups enjoyed the songs and hearing about how Brer Rabbit tricked Brer Fox into swapping places with him at the bottom of the well in the story of the Fitsy-Fotsy-Figaloo Fishes. But what really got them howling was Tacky.
Helen Lester’s story of the misfit Antarctic bird seems to me to be written for live performance. From the malfunctioning marching to the delinquent diving, it is so easily adapted to demonstration that I can no longer imagine just sitting and reading it. When Tacky shakes the water off his tail, the children giggle. When he sings his horrible song, they laugh out loud. And when he launches himself off the iceberg and lands his cannonball dive right at their feet, they shriek with delight.
I don’t know that Jesus ever told stories about penguins and rabbits to the children of Galilee but I do know that he welcomed them and embraced them. There’s not much in life that is more enjoyable than bringing a few bright moments into a child’s day. Having your son help you do it for children you already love… well, that’s just darn near ecstasy.