reworking my many colored days

of course, feel free to rewrite/reuse this as you see fit. its only fair – thats what i did to dr. seuss. (scissors, paper and glue = old school wiki?) also, i consider this a draft because of the fruity ending i need to rewrite.

i didn’t really plan this as a great teachable moment, but it turned out that way. in the morning, i was sitting in the rocking chair across from grandma reading to my children. i was really enjoying watching them all listen intently and i love dr. seuss, but when the story about the different colored days came to brown and then black, i suddenly noticed what a definitely negative tone there was to these colors:
some days, of course, feel sort of brown.
then i feel slow and low, low down.
then come my black days.
mad. and loud.
i howl.
i growl at every cloud.
i decided right then and there i was going to fix the book. later, i re-evaluated whether the book was worth salvaging, or whether i should just throw it away – as i’ve done with innumerous children’s books. i decided i liked the books concept and it could be good if it only said things differently. this was an important decision because my children would not have learned anything if i had merely thrown the book away. i’m sure the copyright police and the purists who believe in the purity of the original work and the great author would be aghast. anyway, i’m not going to let the naysayers get in the way of actual positive (re)construction.
later in the day, my son and daughter and i sat down on the back porch with scissors, tape, markers and the victim of our surgery – the book.
instead or re-reading the book, i chose to have the kids describe what black and brown made them feel like. i knew if i re-read the book, they would only repeat it back to me, so i wanted to catch them fresh. the concept of feeling like a color was pretty abstract for a five year old and a three year old, so they immediately described night for black, and various brown things such as earth (dirt), leaves, bears, for brown. from there i pushed them further for what happens at night and what it might feel like. i then penned one line before i realized i had committed myself to rhyming with it and keeping the rhythm of the book. but we did ok. here’s what we came up with:
some days, of course, feel sort of brown.
then i feel safe and cozy
and warm all around.
on black days i feel calm, serene.
i walk. i glide.
i chirp. i sing.
hey, i wasn’t trying to make a whole essay on defeating racial stereotypes, but just trying to (re)write past a negative impasse. (also, we carefully pasted the words to cover up the scary teeth in the picture on the black page.)
well, then i was suspect of the whole book. purple seemed sort of negative but i left it alone. then i came to
then comes a mixed-up day. and wham! i don’t know who or what? i am!
of course i’m not going to leave that alone – my children especially need a strong sense that being multi-cultural is good – not confusing. so we re-wrote it to…
then comes a mixed-up day. and wham! no one can tell me who or what? i am!
and the last page of the book says,
but it all turns out all right, you see.
and i go back to being… me.
this assumes a certain stasis and non-colorful personality it seems (i.e. white). so…
but it all turns out all right, you see.
because no matter how i feel, i’m still the same person
… and that is me.
well, we were done. we cleaned up the markers and the paper scraps. but then, on the stairs to the backyard, we started to discusss why we’d changed the book. (i didn’t feel it was explicit before. it’s not easy to discuss this at a pre-school level.) we discussed how some people have negative ideas about certain colors, or don’t like certain colors. why? well, some people want to think their colors are the best. they want to think their colors are better than everyone elses. they feel they must have a favorite color…. i’m not sure if they understand until my three year old daughter says, i like all the colors. and my son and i say, me too.