When I turned six years old my mom and dad bought me Dr. Seuss’s My Book About Me for my birthday. I can’t remember if I was excited about the gift, or if I even knew what it was. I didn’t really care about books or reading or writing until I got to college, so I suspect that six-year-old Brett probably showed little enthusiasm for receiving a book for his birthday.
A book? That means one fewer “real” present.
I may not remember how I felt when I received the book, but I clearly remember my excitement working on the book.
In case you’re not familiar with My Book About Me, it’s a do-it-yourself, fill-in-the-blank type book. Dr. Seuss wrote prompts and the child responds. Am I a boy or a girl? What color eyes do I have? What do I want to be when I grow up? How many windows are in my house? How many forks? What kind of noises can I make?
I still have my copy of the book that I received for my six birthday, and I love reading it and seeing how I answered the questions, in my own handwriting. And as I read the book, I recall memories associated with the book.
A year or so after I completed it, I changed my mind about my favorite book, so I crossed out the title I’d listed and wrote something else. My sister explained to me that I shouldn’t change my answers, that the book was meant to be a snapshot of me at that age. I thought that was stupid at the time, but it makes perfect sense now.
I finished my book in June 1984, which I now associate with the famous Ryne Sandberg Game in which the Cubs second basemen hit two homeruns on a nationally televised game to beat the Cardinals. I have no recollection of that game, or of any baseball at that time, but I vividly recall my excitement when Larry the Mailman signed on the line reserved for the letter carrier’s autograph. A tall friend of my parents, Jim Harris, signed the line reserved for a man over six feet, three inches tall. He seemed giant to me.
My oldest daughter received a My Book About Me before I came into her life after her second birthday. But I made sure to buy a copy of the book for my three youngest kids on their sixth birthdays. My youngest daughter turned six last month, and we’ve been working on completing her copy of the book ever since.
Today we walked from our mailbox to the nearest store (actually, a restaurant, but there are a few situations in the book where we just have to say “close enough!”) and counted the steps. 1,016 steps. Her steps, not mine. We estimated the number of buttons and zippers that she owns. There’s no way we could count all of the buttons without missing some, so the number wouldn’t be accurate anyway, so we just decided to guess.
The autograph page is mostly empty. Thus far she has only obtained the autograph from her uncle, but we’re already planning a stakeout next Saturday morning to wait for the letter carrier. I’m thinking about plans to get autographs from a grocer, a police officer, and a firefighter, too. Unlike my incomplete book, we’re not going to stop until she gets all of them!
So we now have five My Book About Me books spread over two generations. I hope my kids will continue the tradition and buy a copy of the book for their children on their sixth birthday. If they don’t, I will!
And as my kids get older I have no doubt they’ll enjoy their books as much as I’ve enjoyed mine. My copy is packed away in a box somewhere, but I’m going to find it to show my youngest daughter. I know we have one thing in common: we both listed broccoli as our least favorite food. But maybe thirty-two years from now she’ll grow to love it just like I have!
Individually, the books are called My Book About Me. But in the hours we’ve spent doing these books together, and then reading them together, and marveling at the answers, we’ve changed them into Our Books About Us.
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