Monday, March 23, 2009

The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups

It's spring break for my kids, and we're taking some time to play, and to put things away from where they've gotten scattered during the last few weeks. One of the things I just picked up is an old favorite picture book, written and illustrated by David Wisniewski and entitled The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups. The cover looks like a Top Secret folder, and inside there are a number of secrets revealed as the adult motivation behind various rules, like why you should eat your vegetables and comb your hair, and why you should not play with your food or bite your fingernails.

Our favorite has always been the secret behind why grown-ups always say not to jump on the bed. The "official reasons" are listed as "You'll break it. You might get hurt." But the REAL reason is that "you'll wake up the mattress!" Because
"you see, mattresses aren't just big lifeless rectangles crammed with stuffing. They are active wooly creatures raised on farms in Scotland. There, the mattress herders (or mattherds) sing a lovely ballad as their frisky mattdogs guide the beasts to pasture....
After growing to adulthood, the mattresses start a long period of hibernation. Undisturbed by noise and handling, they are rounded up, sorted by size, and sold to stores. Then they end up in your bedroom, where they snooze peacefully year after year. Unless you jump on them.
Fortunately, today's mattresses are very difficult to wake up. That wasn't the case with their hardy ancestors. When the first Scots arrived in Scotland by parcel post more than six thousand years ago, they saw wild mountain mattresses jumping from peak to peak. By imitating the creature's mating call with bagpipes, the Scots gtried to capture one. But none succeeded. Then one night, about A.D. 1040, the Scottish king Malcolm the Upset wandered the moors, trying to get over eating haggis, a real humdinger of a national dish. He stumbled upon a hibernating mattress, upon which he slept soundly for the first time in many years....
King Malcolm brought the mattress home and began breeding it.... we now have the modern domestic mattress with its mild disposition and long hibernation period.
Still, it's not a good idea to jump on your bed. That mattress might be hard to wake up, but it's not impossible."

I think we all liked the idea that there were secrets in our everyday lives, and relished reading this book, which purports to share those secrets with only a select few. We also like the cumulative effect of all the different rules and the "REAL" reasons for them--as you keep reading, they get funnier just because you get in a silly mood.

And that's one thing we all need at my house: silliness. We need to think of something sillier than putting a sign that says "Warning: Attack Rabbit" on our rabbit's hutch. Something more amusing than giving my brother an entire bag of black jellybeans. Something newer than facing the back of the elevator. Got any suggestions?

5 comments:

Nicole said...

I was such a scaredy-cat as a child. I couldn't have heard this story at too young an age. Now ay could I get to sleep thinking that my mattress could be alive.

Jeanne said...

Nicole, yes, I forgot to say that we got the book when my kids were past most of the going-to-bed scares. We think its appeal is mostly for ages 5-9...and parents, especially those parents who like the ending of Spy Kids, with its idea that parents can have secret lives!

lemming said...

Have you considered dress-up day? Everyone dresses like Mom one day, etc.

Jeanne said...

Lemming: !! While dressing like mom will provide some laughs as they imagine what garments would achieve that effect, neither of my kids ever liked playing dress-up, beyond wearing a cape to indicate what character they were. I've always had a hard time even getting them to change clothes for a fancy event in the evening. Once they get dressed, that's it for the day.

Harriet M. Welsch said...

Oh, I forgot all about that book! We had it from the library ages ago when AJ was too small to fully appreciate it. I should track it down again. I'm pretty sure he'd think it was hilarious now.