"Since flesh can't stay, we keep the breath aloft. Since flesh can't stay, we pass the words along." --Erica Jong

Sunday, May 21, 2006


I learned, from the age of two or three, to love books. Epamanondas was the first. Epamanondas, who carried the butter home as he had carried the cake, "wrapped up in leaves and put in his hat as he came along...." And, of course, the butter melted and ran everyplace.... Later, his Auntie told him, "I've got six pies cooling on the doorstep--you be careful how you step on those pies!" The pies sat cooling in a row on the doorstep. As soon as his Auntie left, Epamanondas went out, and he was good and careful. He stepped right--in--the--middle--of--each one! When his Auntie came back, she said "Epamanondas, you don't have the sense you were born with. But I love you just the same, and don't you forget it!" And he never did.

I can't remember a time when I was not in love with books. At Christmas, Santa Claus would often bring me a book. There was The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, a real women's lib story first published in 1939, about a lady bunny who attains the exalted position of Easter Bunny in spite of her responsibilities as the mother of 21 children. In the end, this "brave, kind, and swift" bunny must fly to a snowy mountaintop to delived a beautiful egg to a sleeping boy before she can return home to hide eggs for all 21 of her own children. The sight of the sleeping boy with that beautiful, fragile egg in the palm of his hand sent waves of dread through me. I knew the boy would wake up with no idea of the egg in his hand--and it would fall--and that would be the end of that!

I loved the Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr books. by Maj Lindman. Babar the Elephant was another favorite. My Nanny gave me A. A. Milne'sNow We Are Six on my sixth birthday, and inscribed it: To a Nice Little Girl. I memorized it.

Then there was the comics page in the newspaper: The Teenie Weenies were tiny people who lived among the birds, chipmunks, mice, squirrels and rabbits in Teeny Weenie Town. and the Katzenjammer Kids, Invisible Scarlet O'Neil, Dick Tracy,Red Ryder and Little Beaver. The list could go on and on.

Once we got a set of encyclopedias, filled with volumes of information and pictures--a mother testing a baby's bathwater with her elbow, a story of gypies who
dyed a stolen child's skin brown with walnut juice. The set was red, with gold-leaf that said: COMPTON'S PICTURED ENCYCLOPEDIA on the front of each book. We also had a set of medical encyclopedias I loved to look at, in which various people suffered with unspeakably horrid illnesses which cracked their lips and spotted their skins. There were other pictures in which broken arms were expertly set in slings elaborately folded and tied.

In school we read of Dick and Jane, Spot, Puff, and Baby Sally. I loved the weight, and feel, and the smell of books! So, I became a bookworm. I don't remember ever learning to read. It seemed as if I always knew how, and I could never understand people who didn't love to read.


Anonymous said...

someone help me find whole Epamanondas story!

Anonymous said...

did anyone ever find the whole story of Epamanondas? If so please email me a copy or let me know where I can get one. My grandmom used to tell it to me and now want to tell it to my daughter.

thanks so much

Anonymous said...

I too, would love to get the whole story of Epamanondas. The version I was brought up with was only what my mother could remember of it (she was born in 1921). My memory of the story has turned it into a VERY short story. Still, my children all love it. Sometimes we joke with another family member "Steve-anondas (or whatever name was appropriate at the time)...you ain't got the brains you was born with!"
Where can I get the real story? I have NEVER laid eyes on it EVER in my life!

J. Toney said...

I would also like to find a copy of Epamanondas. One of my Elementary school teachers read it to our class, many, many, many years ago. (Mid 1960's? ) It's nice to know I'm not the only one who remembers the story. (Well, at least parts, anyway... ) I suppose I should check my local Libraries, and Amazon.com. Sadly, I think it may have gone the way of "Little Black Sambo", and Uncle Remus stories. (They're not "PC". )

If you can help me locate Epamanondas, please email me at SilverUnicorn@gmx.net

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Anonymous--you can still find copies of this book on Amazon. Type the title Epamanondas and his Auntie into your search screen. The author was Sarah Cone Bryant. When I checked this morning (3/4/09)there were many copies still available for about $5.00. This is where I got my copy. Good luck!

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