Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

To celebrate Dr. Seuss's 108th birthday today, I blew the dust of my copy of Green Eggs and Ham, and read it all over again. I loved following the mischievous Sam’s clever cajoling along the rickety train tracks and over this kooky landscaped town, then heading into the water with those cast of characters I’ve grown to see as family.
Looking at the rollicking illustrations, especially the ones where the train’s conductor and the unsuspecting passengers grin their way into the tunnel and plunge upside down into the tugboat, I discovered something I never realized before: that Dr. Seuss instilled in me a love of hats.

Not the outrageous, striped stovepipe number that the Cat in the Hat wears, (along with many school teachers on Mr. Geisel’s birthday), but hats just quirky enough to spark a conversation—like the ones found on the heads of the characters in Green Eggs and Ham.

In fact, just yesterday morning when we woke up to our first snowfall of the year, I’d donned a hat like Sam’s. Though mine is burgundy and cable-knitted, its peak is curled too and lists sideways--usually to the left--like a boxing glove resting atop a hat stand.

I’ve always loved the hat that Sam wears—how it seems to sway a bit with every illustration, taking on its owner’s character and moving with him like they’ve been friends all their lives. It matches the red glove attached to the fishing rod holding the plate of green eggs and ham, the box with the fox, the mountains, and even the train.

Leafing through the illustrations this time, I also notice that I’ve worn each type of hat the oblivious-looking passengers are wearing as they head for their watery ending: the conductor in his woolen paper boy cap, (a favorite of mine plucked from a vintage shop and worn throughout college); the young boy’s porkpie hat just like Art Carney’s in The Honeymooners, and donned by musicians nowadays. (I lost my brown felt one with its shiny silk ribbon on a Toronto subway and hope someone’s enjoying it as much as I did).

The mother with her blooming daisy chapeau reminds me of the hats I wore while reporting on the Kentucky Derby and the Queen’s Plate in Toronto. And I’m happy to say that I still have my Stetson fedora, like the one the last cheery passenger is wearing, though mine’s not as lumpy as his.

So while Dr. Seuss inspired many of us as children to grow up embracing the ridiculous, the cleverness in the simplicity of words and how you place them, I’m also grateful that he helped me realize that hats, like the punctuation mark at the end of a sentence, can pack a visual punch, too.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

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