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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

On Being A Kid Again

This past summer, our good friends, Jim and Cathy along with their adorable daughter Kajsa came to Stockholm. We were very happy to get to spend lots of different kinds of time with them including a day on our boat and an evening in our home. The night they were with us in our home, Kajsa found my stash of children's books that I've kept with me since childhood. Even though we never had kids, these books are a part of me, a part of my life. I am so thankful that my parents instilled me a joy of reading that endures today. The books that I have with me are reminders of this time. Kajsa was drawn to a book that reminded me of a very special event in my own childhood.
That book was a riddle book that I've had as long as I can remember. I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me well that I loved telling jokes as a kid! In fact, it was a joke from this book that eventually led to my television debut in 1967. I was one of the kids who appeared on Art Linkletter's segment of his House Party called Kids Say the Darndest Things! 
It was standard practice for CBS to send scouts out to the greater Los Angeles schools looking for kids who might do well on the show. As luck would have it, they wanted second graders so I was sent to the principal's office with two of my best friends. I NEVER got sent to the principal's office so was utterly unsure what this could be about. We walked in to find a group of men in black suits just sitting in the office. They didn't say a word, just had us sit down among them. Well, the silence was killing me so I decided to start telling jokes! And the jokes that I knew best were out of this riddle book! So I started in: What kind of bird is like a car? A goose because they both honk! I suppose I showed enough precocious cuteness that the producers decided I would come up with silly enough answers to delight the audience. Too bad this was pre-VCR...only a reel to reel audio tape remains...and a few photographs that a friend took off the TV.
Incidentally, one of my prizes was set of children's books that I still have to this day.
Well, anyway...back to Kajsa. She was absolutely enthralled with this book and couldn't wait to read through every joke with us!
Note the presence of Pippi Longstockings and her horse by her side!
I actually did chime in with my goose joke but she had already read it and knew the answer! Anyway...her delight in this book was so special to me that I decided that she would enjoy that book in her possession much more than I would enjoy it on my shelf, so on their last day in Stockholm, I walked over to their hotel and gave her the book. Truth be told, giving her the book is what brought me the most joy...
I suppose somewhere in her silly demeanor and her joy in telling these jokes I saw a bit of myself at 7 years of age. It was really special to enjoy this resonance with a child. And her folks said that she carried the book with her on the rest of their trip, reading it to all who would listen.
I hope she memorizes the jokes and tells them for a good long while. And who knows, maybe she'll be in the right place at the right time and that honking goose joke will catapult her into a television career. At any rate...it's a special connection with a very special little girl.