Dumb luck comes to everyone at some point or other. It came to Harry by way of a bird – an unsuspecting, industrious, blessed bird. First, the backstory of No Roses for Harry.*
Harry was a white dog with black spots. On his birthday, he got a present from Grandma. It was a woolen sweater with roses on it. Harry didn’t like it the moment he saw it. He didn’t like the roses.
This is a story that packs a punch. In the opening paragraph alone and in the priceless expression on his face, we are all reminded of a time when we opened a gift, feared our inability to hide our shock and thought How ghastly is that!
Poor Harry. No one else seems to think the sweater is ghastly. He does his best to lose it, fails three times, is forced to wear it and finally hangs his head.
That’s when his luck began.
As he sat wondering what to do, Harry noticed a loose stitch on his sweater. He pulled at the wool—just a little at first – then a bit more – and a little bit more. Harry didn’t know it, but a bird was watching….
Quick as a flash, she took the end of the wool in her beak and flew away with it! It all happened before Harry could even blink.
To Harry’s great delight, the bird kept flying with the string of wool in her beak until the entire sweater had unraveled and was trailing after the bird high up in the sky like a plane at the beach trails a banner – this was the best banner ever!
No one in the family noticed until they got a note from Grandma that she was coming for a visit. Uh-oh! Where’s the sweater? Of course they couldn’t find it. Only Harry knew why.
This is where I take umbrage.
When Grandma arrived, Harry ran to her with his leash. Then he sat up and begged. “All right, Harry,” said Grandma. After I’ve had my lunch and a nap, we’ll go for a walk.”
C’mon, Grandma. Really? You just got there. Lunch, okay. But a nap? You need a nap??
I’m pretty good about sticking to the text of a book as I read aloud to children. It seems ingenuine and just plain wrong to change what the author clearly intended the words to be, much as we will interpret them (and, in this case, the hilarious images and fashion of 1958) individually anyway. But this is the one part of this book I might have reworded slightly once or twice over the years, maybe even just omitted the “and a nap” part.
What kind of grandmas need naps, even think of naps, in the late morning having just arrived on a visit to precious grandchildren? Not the kind I wanted my children to form images of. Not me anyway, not the woman who would someday become the grandmother (Oma) of their own children. Best nip this expectation in the bud. No roses for Harry and no naps for me!
For better or worse, I have a lot to do in this one life I’ve been given. It’s always been that way. Whether working full time under someone else’s timetable or ordering every minute of my day myself, I am one of those people whose list is always longer than the time given, who never runs out of things to do, who thinks of the next thing while doing the three things that came before it. I have always lamented that I have to sleep. I like to sleep, don’t get me wrong. Sleep is glorious and needful, but sleep happens at nighttime, the way nature intended.
Napping is a foreign concept – they call it a siesta in some cultures, right? Other cultures. Napping was always, for me, an activity reserved for those days when I am so sick I can’t get off the couch. I always said If I’m asleep during the day, you know I don’t feel well.
C’mon, Grandma. Really?
Gosh, now I get it!
See this darling little fellow? This is Nelson, almost two, with my mom, his great-grandma, about to catch him as he flies downward with all speed and zero fear.
See this darling little girl? This is Ellie, just turned four, posing with a goat at Yoder’s in Madison, Virginia, looking sweet and angelic, which she (yes, of course, because I love her very much) always is. 😊
They wear me out! I need a nap!
*No Roses for Harry by Gene Zion, Pictures by Margaret Bloy Graham, Harper Collins Children’s Books, New York, 1958