Green eggs and super-strong adhesives: What I learned about my parents by reading Dr. Seuss

My daughter loves books. Lately, she’s gotten especially into Dr. Seuss, and has even learned to recognize some of these classic works by the ever-present Cat in the Hat “Beginner Books” logo.  Handing me book after book, she exclaims happily:

Hop on Pop by DOC-tah Seuss!”

Fox in Socks by DOC-tah Seuss!”

Spooky Old Tree by DOC-tah Seuss!”

Are You My Mother? by DOC-tah Seuss!”

Okay, so those last two, while also emblazoned with the Cat in the Hat logo, are, in fact, not by Dr. Seuss (they were written by The Berenstains and P. D. Eastman, respectively). But you get the point – a certain rhyming non-medical doctor is looming large in our home right now, so we’re getting put through our paces reading these classics over and over and over again.

I can’t remember the last time I read Green Eggs and Ham until my daughter fished it out of her boxed set a few months ago. I mean, most of us know the basic premise of the story, but after multiple careful exposures, I began to ask myself a few nagging questions.

  • Why doesn’t that unnamed grump like Sam-I-Am?
  • Why doesn’t the grump have a name?
  • Why does Sam-I-Am care whether or not the grump likes green eggs and ham?
  • Why does Sam-I-Am work cheerfully and relentlessly to convince the grump otherwise, costing (at last count) a car, a boat, and a train?
  • And why does this swath of egg-and-ham-related destruction cause seemingly ZERO dismay on the part of the various Seussian denizens who wind up peacefully treading water in the ocean, eagerly awaiting a triumphant, reasoned end to the grump’s picky eating?

I don’t know if I have any good answers for you, at least not in regard to the exploits of Sam-I-Am et al. But I do have some answers related to super-strong glue. Specifically Steel Tough Weldbond Universal Adhesive.

If there can be said to be such a thing as “glue loyalists,” then my parents would be the first people to earn the designation. For as long as I can remember, my parents have touted the superiority and inestimable utility of Weldbond. Integral to myriad craft and home improvement projects, the innocuous seeming white adhesive, visually indistinguishable from the Elmer’s school-grade stuff, was an ever-present fixture in my childhood home. In casual conversation, whenever broken items or unfixable treasures were mentioned, however off-handedly, my parents were both quick to extol the virtues of this fabulous fixative, lauding its strength, durability, and many other fine qualities.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else with such a strong predilection for a particular sort of paste.  It should come as no surprise to you, then, that my parents’ fancy became a source of no small amount of ridicule, amusement, and eye-rolling.  As do all parents, I suppose, they like to be helpful, know about the best things.  As they get older, I sense their anxiety about wanting to make valuable contributions to my life and the lives of those around them. And as they’ve gotten older, I’ve grown more and more suspicious of their advice.

You see, parents fall hard from the pedestal of our childhoods.  When we are young, they seem god-like, magically shielding us from the evils of the world while appearing all-knowing and all-seeing (in truth, we moms do sprout eyes in the backs of our heads, but that’s another story for another time). This sense of being utterly protected, swaddled in love and security, begins to develop some cracks around the time we discover that the Tooth Fairy is not real, that Wikipedia is a more reliable source of information, and that our parents are fallible, frail, and all-too-human.  The magic spills out of reality; Oz is just a man behind a curtain, and we begin to come to grips with our utter aloneness in this universe.

It’s a bitter pill that each one of us must swallow, but perhaps no more bitter than trying to make do with the deeply well-intended but poorly crafted advice of our fallen-god parents. Case in point, I was bullied in elementary school; one day I came home in tears, begging my parents to help me conquer my foe.  I recall my mom telling me,

“Oh, he just likes you. You should kiss him on the nose!”

I know my mother meant well, and perhaps this advice was once given to her (and, who knows, even worked). But I was not about to follow it. I continued to suffer my bully’s torment and abuse as the magic leached steadily out of my young world.

Look, I’m not here to judge or shame my parents – they did the best they could, as I’m doing with my child. And just as they fell from the pedestal, so, too, will I.  And, after the pedestal is long in my daughter’s rear-view mirror, I hope that something akin to what happened at my parents’ yearly visit will happen to her.

This year, I asked my mom to bring out my old porcelain tea set, recalling many delightful afternoons spent playing with them.  The teapot had cracked long ago, so I wasn’t terribly concerned with my daughter breaking it yet again. But when I pulled it from its styrofoam packaging, it fell apart at its old fault lines.  Knowing full well my parents’ perennial desire to be helpful, I handed my dad the teapot, a roll of masking tape, and a tube of Gorilla Glue, then headed off to work for the day.

When I returned, I found a brand-new tube of Weldbond sitting next to the newly repaired teapot, and received several admonishments to allow it to cure for 24 hours.  I shrugged, noting how much simpler it would have been for my dad to just use the glue I already had, but it was his job to do as he pleased.

After they left, I found a headband of my daughter’s in need of fixing: a sparkly ornament had fallen off. As I reached for the Gorilla Glue, the Weldbond looked at me longingly from the shelf.  I decided to give it a try after all these years. It went on smoothly in a velvety-soft line. Because the glue dries slowly, I didn’t have to worry about  sticking my fingers together, leaving a crispy residue, or ruining a piece of clothing with a rock-hard stain. After the 24-hour curing period, I found that the glue had dried clear and strong. Soon after, I used it to fix a patch to my favorite visor, and then repair a broken flap book.

I found myself extolling Weldbond’s many virtues to my husband the next day.  He rolled his eyes and told me I sounded just like my parents.

We often have to form our identities in opposition to our parents’ beliefs and opinions.  I staunchly avoided using my parents’ favorite glue deliberately because I assumed it to be as sad and ineffectual as the rest of my parents’ mortal failings.  Instead I suffered for years gluing my fingers and clothes together.

At the end of Dr. Seuss’s masterpiece, the grump finally caves, taking a cautious, resigned bite.  And we all know what happens next.

“I do so like green eggs and ham. Thank you! Thank you, Sam-I-Am.”

Although we can never truly know why, the grump’s life has been improved immeasurably by the realization of his newfound appreciation for this humble foodstuff.  We can only guess as to the specific significance of this discovery, but his demeanor has shifted entirely. It even feels wrong to call him a grump at this point. Now he’s just a nameless fan of green eggs and ham, full of relief and gratitude.

It’s a similar relief to knowing that there is some wisdom and guidance in the world, even if it comes inconsistently.  Sometimes, appreciating a tasty meal or some fantastic glue is enough to make us feel a little less alone, and to remind us of the time when we were once cared for, sheltered, and held by the very gods themselves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: