Earlier this month, I announced to my husband that he needn’t purchase a Valentine’s Day present for me, as I had already acquired my own gift --- a used copy of Gooseberry Lane by Bethany Tudor. Of course, being an out-of print children’s book, all copies of Gooseberry Lane are used. But I digress…This afternoon, on my way out the door for music composition class, what should I spy in the mailbox but a package from River Valley Books in Peru, Maine. Ah, ha! It was my book.
I immediately opened the padded envelope and started to read while my husband drove the car. Just as I remembered, Samuel and Samantha were, indeed, ducks made of plush, who lived in a beautiful white cardboard house with a red roof and a circular window above the door. Samantha kept the home exceptionally tidy, while Samuel tended the garden. One day, after Samuel was injured in the yard (the unfortunate victim of a fall into the burr patch), a rainstorm began to buffet the small abode. Soon, ceilings leaked and walls buckled, forcing Samuel and Samantha to pack their belongings and abandon their home, a sad occurrence indeed.
With great pluck, the ducks headed down Gooseberry Lane, in search of new lodging. Eventually, they settled on a large wooden box by a beautiful pond. “What a perfect house,” quacked Samuel. “All it needs is a proper roof and windows.” Unfortunately, when they looked inside, Samuel and Samantha found a woolen owl and a Gweek, a small blue and green bird. Nonplussed by this setback, Samuel boldly asked, “Would you sell or rent?”
Rather than answer this question, Mr. Owl proposed a trade. If Samuel fixed the wooden house and built a room where Owl could write his learned paper on mice, and if Samantha baked pies once in a while, the ducks could have the box. They must also allow Gweek to remain in the spare bedroom. In agreement with this proposal, Samuel and Samantha moved in. In short order, with the help of a woodpecker and two chipmunks, the home repairs were completed, the ducks threw a party to celebrate, and all lived happily ever after.
My mother tells me that I used to borrow this book from the Martin County Public Library as often as I could. I am not quite certain why she never purchased it for me. Lack of funds, I suppose, or lack of availability. In 1965, my hometown wasn’t exactly overflowing with bookstores (in 2007, my hometown isn’t exactly overflowing with bookstores). At any rate, I now have a copy of Gooseberry Lane that I can read anytime I want. A bit self-indulgent, yes, but, if carefully preserved, a book that can be enjoyed by several generations of family and friends.
Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.