Oct 07, 08
Recommended to Erik by:
Lajla and Christian Stousland
kids and their friends
Read in January, 1963, read count: 12
One evening as my parent's were settling down for Jack Paar's Tonight Show, I was summoned out of bed to the living room of our Levitowner house in the Meadowdale development near Carpentersville. Their faces were grave. "Your mother has something important to tell you," Dad said. I was seven, still sleeping in a blue one-piece with booties, pajamas kept inside a zippered tiger on the bed during the day. They had been warned by Dr. Spock that this was a crucial event, telling the only child that a competitor was on the way.
Upon hearing the news, I ran into my room to return with tiger's companion, my teddy bear, what once had been Mother's teddy across the sea in Oslo, literally my oldest possession. "Here," I said, with gravity approaching theirs, "this is for the baby."
When the baby came it was a boy. I had had a part in naming it. The initial idea had been to name it after Father's father if it was a boy, to name it "Fin Graff". Thinking this wasn't fair, and, in keeping with Norwegian tradition, having only two names myself, I suggested naming it after both grandfathers, "Fin Einar Graff". And so it was to be.
The Fin Einar was premature and Mother was Rh negative, so it was some time before we were able to pick up the thing. Another "crucial event", the parents were worried about what I'd think of the wizened, red little thing with the peanut head covered with scraggly wisps of damp hair. I said it, he was "beautiful" and rode home with him in the back of Dad's Hilman Husky station wagon--in awe.
Now I was eight and, as Kurt Vonnegut would say, "alone no more". It was great fun having a little brother, almost as good as having Jimmy Olsen, my mongrel dog. As soon as he could focus on pictures, I started reading to him like the parents did.
The paternal grandmother, Lajla, and her second husband, Christian (the first, Einar Sr., having died when I was five), were very generous with the books. While Fin was growing up, he had a subscription to some childrens' book operation so we got a new picture book delivered to the house regularly. Many of them were Dr. Seuss. Hell, all of them might have been his books. Any others weren't memorable. In any case, I liked the Seuss stuff not only because some of them were familiar from my own childhood, but also because they're actually interesting--wierdly creative in a way both kids and grownups can appreciate.
Now Fin is, like myself, very, very old. Unlike myself, he has spawned. This one I also had a part in naming. So convinced were he and Miki that they would have a boy, they had already named it "Liam". Raising the remote possibility of a female, I suggested, cleverly, the name of an old girlfriend from Norway, "Anne-Kristine", a name they appreciated because "Anne-Lise" is Mother's name and because, hey, it is a great name! So, another peanut-head entered the world, her name Americanized to "Anna-Kristina" in deference to the expected spelling proclivities of school teachers and bureaucrats, and those old Dr. Seuss books got a second, even, in some cases, a third run.
They are still not boring.