Anyway, last month, on the Chinese New Year, when rabbits were prominent in my consideration, I decided to once again look for George, a book I've always remembered from when I was ten. It's about a rabbit named George, who wears glasses and helps a brother and sister with their life. It was an obscure little volume, and I'd been searching the Internet for it for ten years, at least, without a clue to author or publisher. Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that the world-wide web had finally been spun fine enough to catch my memories, and George, by Agne Sligh Turnbull, turned up on the radar.
Within a week I had a nice, inexpensive ex-library copy in my hands, and could see that all the details that I could remember were accurate. I read it in less than a hour (it is only ninety-four pages long, and that is with many good line drawings by Trina Hyman). When I put it down I was pleased but puzzled. It was a nice book, but there seemed nothing particularly excellent or special about it. Why had it teased and hung onto my memory over all these years?
George H., a talking rabbit who wears glasses (he doesn't need them, but inherited them from his grandfather, a Belgian hare), turns up at the Weaver household. He helps the mother calm her migraines by letting her pet him (without revealing his unusual talents); but he talks to the children Milly and Tommy, helping them with their manners, their homework, and their vocabulary; the common-sense, working father never sees George and remains sceptical till the end, when he finds George's glasses. George leaves, in best Mary Poppins fashion, when he has solved many of the family's problems.
Perhaps that's why it impressed itself so on me at the time. Perhaps I wanted a secret mentor and friend to help me with my life (and anyone who thinks a ten-year-old doesn't have problems isn't remembering things correctly or was just extraordinarily lucky). The family was just enough like mine that I could squeeze us into their situation. And the odd thing is, looking back, that even pretending at the time to have an imaginary friend helped. Asking myself what would someone like George do, and then doing it myself, helped me get through. I suppose, in a more rarified and advanced way, I still do the same thing.
As anyone who has regularly read this blog knows, I have been gathering many of the old books I read when I was a child. This has been not only an exercise in nostalgia and delight, but in an odd way one of retroactive self-analysis. When I started this entry I had no idea it would lead me where it has. But there it is.