My Mother’s Favorite

My mother knew this one by heart:

Sneezles, by A. A. Milne

Christopher Robin
Had wheezles
And sneezles,
They bundled him
His bed.
They gave him what goes
With a cold in the nose,
And some more for a cold
In the head.
They wondered
If wheezles
Could turn
Into measles,
If sneezles
Would turn
Into mumps;
They examined his chest
For a rash,
And the rest
Of his body for swellings and lumps.
They sent for some doctors
In sneezles
And wheezles
To tell them what ought
To be done.
All sorts and conditions
Of famous physicians
Came hurrying round
At a run.
They all made a note
Of the state of his throat,
They asked if he suffered from thirst;
They asked if the sneezles
Came after the wheezles,
Or if the first sneezle
Came first.
They said, “If you teazle
A sneezle
Or wheezle,
A measle
May easily grow.
But humour or pleazle
The wheezle
Or sneezle,
The measle
Will certainly go.”
They expounded the reazles
For sneezles
And wheezles,
The manner of measles
When new.
They said “If he freezles
In draughts and in breezles,
May even ensue.”

Christopher Robin
Got up in the morning,
The sneezles had vanished away.
And the look in his eye
Seemed to say to the sky,
“Now, how to amuse them to-day?”

On Mother’s Day, I am thinking about how my mother, Sylvia McNair, lured me into reading and writing. She delighted in the printed page, bought me books, read me stories, gave me writing assignments of my own. She taught me to read by using a blackboard on our kitchen wall and drawing stop sign on it with the word inside. It was the first word (besides my name) I learned to recognize and to read.

A. A. Milne was a big part of this joy we shared. Particularly the books Now We Are Six and When We Were Very Young. And when my mother and the rest of us knew for certain that her life was nearing its end, she asked me to buy her copies of these books so she could read them again and again, in order to find solace and pleasure in the verses. Most things she had to face in those last months were uncomfortable, but here on the page with Christopher Robin she found comfort. She read these poems out loud to me, as she had decades earlier. The verse above was her favorite, I think.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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