Until I bought this book, used, a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t seen it in at least 29 years. It was in my Bubbe’s house in Sharon, MA, and she was famous among the cousins for her dramatic readings of it. She did a squeaky high voice for Muggins. I remember her New England accent.
I don’t have a lot of fond memories of my Bubbe. Cousin Aaron remembers her chasing us around the house with her teeth in her hand as we screamed in delicious terror. How could I have forgotten this? But I have. I have a vague memory of her taking us to shul, where I spotted Jay from PBS’s Zoom, which was the elementary-school equivalent of spotting Mike Jagger at the Ground Round. I remember her babysitting for us when my parents were on vacation, and catching her kicking my cat. She’d buried a husband; she had money woes; she was lonely. By the time I got to know her, the daffodils that ringed her house were far sunnier than she was.
My happiest memories of Bubbe center around her reading Muggins to us. She was a wonderfully dramatic reader. I found her recitation hilarious; I thought the book was a work of genius — the Remembrance of Things Past of mouse fiction. When the book arrived in the mail, I ripped it open so fast you’d have thought naked Jon Hamm was inside. I thrilled to the cover — it was just as I’d remembered it.
Alas, I quickly discovered that by adult standards, the book is moronic. Only the illustrations are nifty, in a mod way. But in some ways, I’m glad the book is ass. That means its beauty and fabulousness come from Bubbe, not from within.
Cousins, do these images ring a bell?