Memories in cardboard

When I started Kindergarten, we were introduced to the alphabet through a program that assigned the letters human traits. Hence, Mister M had a munching mouth. I think Mister T may have had tall teeth and Miss I might have suffered from some sort of uncontrollable itch. I don’t remember the characteristics of the other anthropomorphic letters, but I will always remember Mister M.

I didn’t like him then. I love him now.

Mr. M's munching mouth

He seemed like more of a serious individual when I was five.

I recall Mister M so well because he was the first letter-person we met. I’m pretty sure he was, although it seems like it would have made more sense to start with Miss A. Oh well, 1972 was confusing time for a lot of folks, and I’m sure there was a method to the madness in the way we were taught our MBCs.

Mister M’s image was presented to us on colorful placard. We practiced our M sounds for a little while, whereupon Mister M’s card was hung up on the wall, where we could all see and admire his glorious munching mouth and be inspired by it to bite each other in the legs.

When I got home from school after Mister M’s arrival, my mother asked me about him. “What does Mister M have?” she quizzed.

It must have been a long, stressful day of Kindergarten for me, because my response showed much more surliness than imagination. This was out of character for me, as my reputation indicated that my imaginativeness should nearly equal the level of my rotten disposition.

“Mister M don’t have nothing,” I said. “He’s just a piece of cardboard.”

I don’t remember this discussion. My mother told me about it when I was older. It is one of the few snapshots of my childhood, taken from the point of view of one of my parents, that I keep with me. There is no telling how many like snapshots are lost forever.

toy tractor

A boy and his tractor in the black and white days before Mr. M.

My parents have been gone for many years, and with them have gone most of the glimpses of my childhood wisecrackery. I never got the chance to talk to my father man to man, and I had far too few years of adult conversations with my mother.

That is why is write this blog.

It’s not the only reason, and it’s not even the main reason I had for starting. But it has become the primary reason over time. My boys won’t remember the majority of events chronicled here. They won’t see any of these happenings through their dad’s eyes.

When I’m gone, I want them to know how much I was amazed or tickled or made thoughtful by their childhood antics.

Yes, I could record these events without blogging them, but I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t get around to it. Blogging makes it a responsibility of sorts. It gives me deadlines for turning my memories into words before they slip between the fingers of my mind.

Like typical digital parents, we take tons of pictures of our kids. But pictures can lack context. There are some emotions that only a story can show. Sometimes a word is worth a thousand pictures.

Whatever happens tomorrow, I can be happy that my boys have this link to their yesterdays. I can’t give them everything I want them to have, but at least I know I’ve provided them with some treasures of their own making. If nothing else, they will always have a handful of their own Mister Ms.



20 comments on “Memories in cardboard

  1. Tom W says:

    Very nice post, Scott!

  2. stacybuckeye says:

    LOVE this! In part it’s why I started writing Weekends with Gage again. I took 6 months off and realized that I hadn’t saved any memories for later. Of course, mine are only snapshots, your boys are getting context 🙂

  3. lcperkins says:

    I remember these cardboard letter people, not because we used them in my kindergarten class, but because my younger sister’s class used them. I recall distinctly Mister Y with its big yawning mouth. We all know that yawns are contagious, and I remember looking at the Y character, and it made me and my little sister yawn!

  4. Wonderful, thoughtful post, Scott. Loved it.

  5. ksujulie says:

    I love this! This is exactly why I started blogging as well. I’m not the scrapbook type. But I can sit on a laptop and write for hours. I hope my girls go back and read this long after I’m gone and can see themselves through my eyes. And maybe a post about a Brazilian. Lol

  6. sheenmeem says:

    You are leaving a legacy for your boys. Words are glimpses of a past.

  7. Awesome post. Lovely writing and touching. Your blog will not only be there for your boys but for their families as well.

  8. Traci says:

    This is a great way to leave a legacy for your kids.

  9. mushroomsup says:

    Hi! I think your blog is absolutely amazing 🙂
    I’ve nominated it for the Versatile Blogger Award. You can check out the details at my post:

    • Thank you very much for the nomination. There are lots of fantastic blogs out there so I am always humbled when someone chooses mine as one that is worthy of this kind of special mention. I will certainly check out the link you provided.

  10. Heyy, great blogger. Love this post of yours. It’s lovely to recall childhood memories. It awkens the little kid inside you. 🙂

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