From the editor
Monday, March 01, 2004
The Dr. will see you now :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Whenever I have needed comfort, I have turned to the doctor. As a child and as an adult, Dr. Seuss has always been my advisor.
His drawings take my mind to another place. His words make me think clearly while making my imagination dance.
He makes me laugh and makes me cry and sometimes I don't even know why.
From little to big, I spent hours and hours with The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Green Eggs and Ham. Later, with my children, I found The Lorax, The Butter Battle Book and Oh, the Places You'll Go and Horton Hears a Who.
Dr. Seuss has been and is my guide.
"Wherever you go, you will top all the rest./Except when you don't./Because sometimes you won't./I'm sorry to say so/but sadly, it's true/that Bang-ups/and Hang-ups/can happen to you." Does anything sum up life more simply or succinctly?
The doctor died in 1991. Had he lived, he would be 100 on March 2. Since he's not here, we can celebrate the body we have-his great body of work.
I never really knew much about Dr. Seuss when I was a kid. Apparently not many knew a lot about him. In writing about Seuss, people have used the words enigma and mystery-and said he was a recluse riddled with self doubt.
Maybe I could have figured out that last part if I had thought long and hard while reading, "But our fish said, ‘No No!/Make that cat go away!/Tell that Cat in the Hat/You do NOT want to play.' "
But I had a very different picture of the dear doctor. The Dr. Seuss I knew, the one in my mind, wore a long white medical coat with a colorful name tag. All those drawings were done on his clipboard while he was talking to patients. He also had a tuft of a moustache and a round face just like the doctor in I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew.
I was deeply disappointed when I found out there were no patients, no clipboard, no nametag and no white coat. Dr. Seuss was just Theodor Seuss Geisel.
I never knew Geisel was a "shy man who wrote for children but had none of his own and rarely felt comfortable around them," as Judith and Neil Morgan wrote in Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography.
If you assume every author puts semi-autobiographical bits and pieces in his work, then we might have seen Geisel as the main character running away from little Sam-I-am in Green Eggs and Ham, and finally with a weary look, saying, "Sam! If you will let me be, I will try them. You will see."
But as a child reading his books, I felt very comfortable with Seuss. There was no mystery. I was not an adult so I didn't see the man, I saw the mind.
He might have been a recluse, but he was a rascal. "His was a mind, his first wife, Helen, had said, that never grew up," wrote the Morgans.
I think his mind just grew.
Geisel was not a great children's writer, a great children's artist or a great children's author.
Geisel was simply a great writer, artist and author whose books were so intelligent they appealed to both children and adults.
I got the sense that Dr. Seuss, unlike most adults, didn't discriminate between big and little people. He certainly didn't in his work, so why would he in his personal life? So, while I believe the Morgans when they write Geisel didn't feel comfortable with children, I also think that he just didn't feel comfortable with many people-adults or children.
When you see the world in a way few others can, don't you think it would be hard to feel comfortable with just anyone?
Still, he respected people-big and little. He knew that not only do we have brains in our heads and feet in our shoes, but also that, hey kid, you could move mountains. And his books tell us so.
Dr. Seuss shows us we are the only ones who make boundaries. He tells us the world is limitless-not always easy-but the possibilities are amazing. Defy the dictionary. Be wubbulous. Don't assume green pants with no one inside don't have feelings. Find the wocket in your pocket.
He tells us we can rise above wrong choices such as war and destruction. That we can and should laugh at ourselves.
His drawings also show a generation still laboring under the direction to color within the lines that a little girl could have a daisy growing out of her head and cats could wear gloves and striped hats.
My all-time favorite Dr. Seuss book is McElligott's Pool. This book-not one of the doctor's better known-tells the story of Marco, who is called a young fool when he drops his fishing line into an old worn-out pool. Marco is told the most he would catch is a boot or a can. But Marco sees through the water with the dreams of a young man. He believes that there are things in the water that are swimming his way. Fish that would take anyone's breath away.
He meets those who doubt with a prediction full out: "If I wait long enough, if I'm patient and cool,/ who knows what I'll catch in McElligott's Pool."
I still recite that when I'm looking for patience.
There are events to honor the Dr. Seuss centennial. We list some on page 12. There is also a stamp being issued by the U.S. Postal Service. But I think the best way to honor Seuss is to read his books-not the ones rewritten for the recent movie. Go fishing in those pages for some perspective. If you know Dr. Seuss, you won't be surprised when you find it. "That's why I think/That I'm not such a fool/When I sit here and fish/In McElligott's Pool!"